Exercise and pregnancy – your questions answered

Some women have questions about whether it’s a good idea to exercise when you’re pregnant, and what level of exercise is safe and healthy. Here, we will answer some commonly asked questions about pregnancy and exercise.

Exercising when pregnant

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

It’s a good idea to continue the same level of activity as before you were pregnant, at least at first. The fitter you are during your pregnancy, the easier your body will find it to adapt to your growing baby. Keep up your normal level of physical activity, including sports, exercise and walking, for as long as it feels comfortable.1

Will exercise do anything for my pregnancy symptoms?

Being active and strengthening certain muscles can help carry the extra weight of pregnancy. Being fit can also strengthen your joints, improve circulation, ease back pain and give you a general sense of wellbeing.1

Pelvic tilt exercises

Pelvic floor exercises can help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which come under strain in pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor has layers of muscles that stretch from the pubic bone (in front) to the end of the backbone. You can try the following pelvic floor exercise below.

  1. Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall
  2. Keep your knees soft 
  3. Pull your tummy button towards your spine, so that your back flattens against the wall: hold for four seconds and release
  4. Repeat up to 10 times1

Will being fit help me during labour?

Being fit is likely to help you cope with the fatigue of labour. You may also find that being active during your pregnancy makes it easier to get back in shape after the birth.1

How strenuously can I exercise?

Exercising when pregnant

As a general rule, you should be able to maintain a conversation while you exercise. Exercise that makes you breathless or unable to speak is too strenuous. If you weren’t very active before your pregnancy, don’t suddenly take up intense exercise – just half an hour of walking each day can be enough, and whatever you can manage is better than nothing. 

If you’re taking part in a class, make sure the instructor knows you’re pregnant. Always warm up and cool down properly, and stay hydrated.1

Are there any types of exercise that I should avoid?

If you do any sports that involve a risk of falling, such as horse riding or ice skating, you should only participate in these with caution during your pregnancy. A fall could cause damage to your baby, and you’re also at risk of injuring yourself. You shouldn’t take part in contact sports such as kickboxing or rugby. You should also avoid extremes of pressure – avoid scuba diving and exercising at altitudes over 2,500m until you have acclimatised.1

How will pregnancy affect my performance?

If you participate in competitive sport at any level, you may start to notice your performance dropping off as your pregnancy progresses. Many high-profile athletes have competed while pregnant – tennis player Serena Williams famously won the 2017 Australian Open when eight weeks pregnant2

Even before your bump shows, your body is undergoing huge physiological transformations, with hormone levels affecting the way your body functions. This can cause fatigue, nausea, tender breasts, constipation and various other obstacles to competing at your best.

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