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Exercise during pregnancy: Safe or No?

Exercise during pregnancy can be scary especially if you are experiencing a lot of back or leg pain.

But exercise can be used as a tool to relieve pain, manage weight, and help shorten labor time! Let's talk about those claims.

Women who exercised regularly gained 0.36 to 2.22 kg less than women who didn’t exercise in their pregnancy (1, 2, 6). It is a great tool to manage weight but should not be used for weight loss in pregnancy although it promotes weight loss AFTER pregnancy (3,4).

Women who exercise regularly throughout their pregnancy have lower rates of C-section than those who don’t exercise (2, 3, 6).

Pregnant women who are aerobically fit have about a 30 minute shorter labor (3).

Exercising is associated with decreased rates of postpartum depression although studies are still being done to see if there is a stronger association (2).

Exercising helps improve energy, mood, posture, muscle tone, stamina, and strength (4, 5). By strengthening the muscles leg and back pain are reduced and the increased blood circulation helps with swelling and varicose veins (5).

Exercise can lower glucose levels in pregnant women and can be used to manage gestational diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes who performed resistance exercise had a reduced chance of having to use insulin to manage blood glucose (3).

Before starting exercise a pregnant women should be assessed by her physician for a risk level. Some high risk conditions include gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or poorly controlled medical comorbidities (3).

Unfortunately, only 16% of pregnant Americans meet the recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days of the week.

Why is this the case? Perhaps some women struggle with knowing what type or how much physical activity to do.

Here are the newest ACOG guidelines for exercise in pregnancy (6):

  • Women should be evaluated by their doctor before beginning an exercise program.

  • Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risk but certain exercise should be avoided.

  • Pregnant women should practice aerobic and strength-training exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.

  • Exercise should be at moderate intensity for 30-60 minutes long at least 3-4x/week.

  • Women should be monitored, in a thermoneutral environment and not exceed 80% of their max heart rate.

The ACOG lists examples of safe exercises in pregnancy (6):

  • walking

  • stationary cycling

  • aerobic exercises

  • dancing

  • resistance exercises with weights or elastic bands

  • stretching exercises

  • swimming

Let the Certified Personal Trainers here at BTR help guide you safely through your pregnancy and maintain optimal health for you and your baby!


1. DIPIETRO, LORETTA1; EVENSON, KELLY R.2; BLOODGOOD, BONNY3; SPROW, KYLE4; TROIANO, RICHARD P.4; PIERCY, KATRINA L.5; VAUX-BJERKE, ALISON5; POWELL, KENNETH E.6 FOR THE 2018 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY GUIDELINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE* Benefits of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 6 - p 1292-1302 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001941

2. Hinman SK, Smith KB, Quillen DM, Smith MS. Exercise in Pregnancy: A Clinical Review. Sports Health. 2015;7(6):527‐531. doi:10.1177/1941738115599358

3. Jukic AM, Evenson KR, Daniela JL, Herring AH, Wilcox AJ, Hartmann KE. A prospective study of the association between vigorous physical activity during pregnancy and length of gestation and birthweight. Matern Child Health J. 2012;16:1031-1044.


5. The Importance of Physical Activity during Pregnancy. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. February 2019.

6. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 804. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2020;135:e178–88.

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