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Exercising safely during pregnancy

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SUMMARY

Research shows that exercise in pregnancy can be incredibly beneficial to both you and your baby – yet information on what’s safe and what’s not can be confusing and outdated. Experts now agree that if your pregnancy is uncomplicated and your midwife approves, you can continue to exercise, take up something new and get Active for 2.

Is it safe to exercise in pregnancy?

In the past, mums have been encouraged to put their feet up and take it easy. Much to the frustration of healthy expectant women, pregnancy can often be treated as an illness – one that requires plenty of rest. Doctors and experts now agree that most exercise done in moderation during pregnancy is safe and beneficial. Whether you were active before pregnancy or haven’t exercised for a while, continuing or starting a pregnancy-safe exercise routine could be one of the best things you can do for both of you.

Before you start, please do consult your doctor or midwife to let them know which activities you plan to engage in. You can also read more about which exercises you should avoid during pregnancy.

Dr Dawn Harper

Dr Dawn Harper

“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”
- @DrDawnHarper


What is considered ‘exercise’?

Any activity which develops and maintains physical fitness can be considered ‘exercise’, and can be beneficial if carried out during pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, and for this reason you don’t need to exercise to a level comparable with anyone else to feel the benefit; just doing as much as you can is enough.

What exercise can I do while pregnant?

There are a number of activities designed specifically for expectant mums, like pregnancy yoga. But if you love to run, swim or go to the gym, you should be able to continue your usual routine with a few modifications. Remember, some days you may feel more energetic than others, so always take things at your own pace.

"Whatever your fitness levels or stage of pregnancy, listen to your body"

  • Running or brisk walking is free and can be done anywhere, anytime. Even a gentle jog or a walk with the dog can raise your heart rate enough to be beneficial. Mel, our pregnancy running coach, talks us through the benefits and gives tips on running while pregnant.
  • Swimming while pregnant is relaxing for the mind and low impact on the body. Most swimming strokes are safe1, including backstroke – although you may want to avoid breaststroke if you have symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)2. Some local councils offer free or discounted sessions for expectant mums. For example, if you live in Bristol you can swim for free when pregnant. Meet our pregnancy swimming coach, Ali, and watch videos on how to get started or maintain a swimming routine when pregnant.
  • Strength training, using moderate rather than heavy weights, is normally safe to continue with if weights are part of your usual exercise routine. But you may need to make a few modifications. Our strength training coach, Pip, talks you through the benefits and demonstrates simple routines that you can do anywhere.
  • Yoga and pregnancy yoga are great for helping you wind down, connect with your baby and retain strength and flexibility. With the help of Clare, our yoga instructor, we’ve created videos of yoga routines that can be done at home.

One golden rule

Whatever your fitness levels or stage of pregnancy, listen to your body. If you feel too tired, your heart is racing or you feel dizzy, stop and rest. Some activity – no matter how small – is better than none at all. Every mother and every pregnancy is unique. Few mums can undertake the same level of activity they did before they became pregnant.

NEXT STEPS

  • Let your doctor or midwife know of your intention to exercise during pregnancy.
  • Inform your gym or fitness instructor too. They may be able to offer tailored classes, and it will mean they are informed in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Ask your local council if they run any fitness schemes that benefit pregnant women.
  • Read about the incredible benefits of exercise for both you and your baby.
  • Make sure you’re exercising safely by reading our tips on how to adapt your routine, and advice on activities to avoid.
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1. Juhl et al. Is swimming during pregnancy a safe exercise? Epidemiology 2010;21(2):253-8.

2. Tommy’s. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) [Online]. Available at: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/symphysis-pubis-dysfunction-spd-or-pelvic-girdle-pain [Accessed: December 2016].

Last reviewed: 9th December 2016

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