Is It Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?

By Dr. Caeden Chau

Physical activity has been shown time and time again to be the best medicine for many injuries and illnesses.  Even during pregnancy, the current research tell us that all women who do not have any contraindications should be physically active throughout the span of their pregnancy.  Contrary to common misconceptions, physical activity during pregnancy is not associated with fetal complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth or preterm birth.  In fact, physical activity is now considered to be a front-line therapy for reducing risk of complications during pregnancy, enhancing the mother’s physical and mental health and optimizing baby’s health.  More specifically, studies have shown that prenatal exercise can help to reduce the risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension by 40%, as well as pregnancy related illnesses such as prenatal depression by 25%.

Here are 10 take home messages for the mamas-to-be who are interested in incorporating exercise into their pregnancy journey!

  1. Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise over a minimum of 3 days a week-however, being physically active every day is encouraged!
  2. Try a variety of physical activities-aerobic, resistance training, yoga, stretching.
  3. Ensure a safe exercise intensity by being able to maintain a conversation while exercising.
  4. Pelvic floor muscle training (i.e. Kegels) can be performed daily to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence.
  5. Avoid exercises that require prolonged time spent on your back-this can sometimes cause light-headedness or nausea.
  6. If you are new to exercise, start slow and at a lower intensity.  Walking is always a good idea.  Gradually increase your duration and intensity as you begin to feel more comfortable.
  7. All women are encouraged to be active throughout all stages of pregnancy, even if modifications need to be made.  Yes, this means the first trimester too!
  8. Listen to your body, rest when you need to.
  9. Avoid contact sports, scuba diving and physical activity in excessive heat.
  10. Make healthy food choices and stay hydrated!

Make sure to talk to your health care provider to answer any questions and discuss your exercise program before starting!

References

BJSM. Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy? BJSM Blog 2019. https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2019/07/11/is-it-safe-to-exercise-during-pregnancy/ (accessed September 1, 2019).

Khan K. Practical Guidance for Exercise and Pregnancy: 10 Take home messages from the BMJ Podcast. BJSM Blog 2012. https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2012/03/30/practical-guidance-for-exercise-and-pregnancy-10-take-home-messages-from-the-bmj-podcast/ (accessed September 1, 2019).

Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat SM, Davies GA, Poitras VJ, Gray CE, Garcia AJ, Barrowman N, Adamo KB, Duggan M, Barakat R. 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Nov 1;52(21):1339-46.

Physical activity and pregnancy. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists 2017. https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/physical-activity-pregnancy/ (accessed September 5, 2019).