Exercising in pregnancy

Gentle exercise during pregnancy is good (and safe) for you and your baby. Not only does it help you maintain a healthy weight, it also helps prepare your body for labour.

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Did you know that 150 minutes of exercise each week has loads of benefits for pregnant mums? It doesn’t have to be in one go - even bouts of 10 minutes can make a difference!

If you are used to doing regular exercise, keep it up, but do what feels comfortable for your body and don’t push yourself too much - exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

If you’re not used to exercising, or haven’t done any for a while, now is a good time to start. Try starting off with 10 minutes of daily activity - perhaps take a brisk walk, or go for a swim. You can then build up to 150 minutes of weekly exercise.

Remember, whatever your fitness level, it’s really important that you listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

As a general guideline, you should be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If you can’t, you need to slow down.

Which types of exercise can I do?

  • Walking is a great form of exercise. Not only is it free, but you can easily incorporate it into your everyday life. If you didn't exercise before, this is a great way to get you started.
  • Running is fine as long as you're experienced. If you are new to running, it's not a good idea to take it up now.
  • Swimming is a good all-round exercise because it uses all your muscles. It also feels good as your body is completely supported in the water. You could also try aquanatal classes.
  • Prenatal yoga will help you relax and ease body tension with gentle stretching and breathing techniques.
  • Aerobics classes (or DVDs) created for pregnant women include low-impact exercises.
  • Pelvic floor and abdominal exercises are really important in pregnancy. Try to fit them into your daily routine as there are many benefits, including strengthening your muscles and joints.

Which exercises should I avoid?

  • Anything that risks your bump being hit, such as martial arts, football, rugby, tennis or squash. Also, activities that could lead to a fall or being thrown off-balance are best avoided, such as horse riding, skiing or gymnastics.
  • Scuba diving is not considered safe, as your baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream).
  • Exercising at high altitudes (over 2,500m above sea level) until you have acclimatised, as you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness.
  • Exercise that involves lying on your back for longer than a few minutes (particularly after 16 weeks). This is because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart. This could cause low blood pressure and make you feel dizzy.

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Tips for exercising

If you want to join an exercise class, make sure your teacher is properly qualified and tell them that you're pregnant.

If you prefer to exercise by yourself, or with a friend, make sure you warm up before, and cool down afterwards.

Avoid strenuous exercise in hot weather, as it's easier to overheat. If you do exercise when it's hot outside, try to avoid the midday sun - go out in the early morning or late afternoon if possible. Remember a hat, sunblock and a bottle of water!

Hydration! Drink plenty of water and other fluids (whatever the weather).

Listen to your body. If you feel uncomfortable, stop. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or midwife.

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