Can you keep exercising when you find out you are pregnant? 

For most women, the answer is yes, as long as you slightly alter your exercise routine to take into account your new physical state. So keep cycling, swimming and walking. Millions of women sail through their pregnancy staying healthy, strong and invigorated through exercise.

For the expectant mother with a healthy, normal pregnancy, exercise can be very safe. For those who have experienced pre-term labor, or had some obstetrical complications in this, or previous pregnancies, exercise may not be recommended. The bottom-line? Pregnant women should not attempt a fitness program without consulting their doctor first. Only by taking a full medical history can your doctor recommend a routine for you and your baby.

Exercising gives you benefits
  • Increase self-esteem while lowering depression and anxiety levels
  • Help you to maintain a steady and reasonable weight gain
  • Reduce pregnancy-associated discomforts
  • Lower your chance of having a cesarean
  • Shorten recovery time after giving birth
  • Accelerate postpartum weight loss
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve sleep quality

What Exercises are best?

Expectant mothers are often most comfortable, and have less injuries, when they follow a non-weightbearing exercise routine, such as swimming or cycling. A study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reveals that pregnant women who follow a non-weightbearing exercise program are more likely to continue it into the third trimester than those who attempt weightbearing exercises such as running or lifting weights.

Do's and Dont's

Some valuable safety tips for exercising during pregnancy:

  • Regular exercise is preferable to intermittent activity. 
  • Vigorous exercise should not be performed when you are ill, or during hot, humid weather.
  • Jerky, bouncy motions should be avoided. Exercise on a wooden floor or a tightly carpeted surface.
  • Because of the relaxation of connective tissue, pregnant women should avoid extreme stretching exercises.
  • Vigorous exercise should be preceded by a five-minute warm-up
  • Strenuous exercise should be followed by a period of gradually declining activity that includes gentle stretching.
  • Heart rate should be measured at times of peak activity and probably should not exceed a maximum of 150 beats per minute.
  • Care should be taken to rise gradually from the floor to avoid an episode of dizziness related to changes in position.
  • Liquids should be taken liberally before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. Activity should be interrupted to replenish fluids.
  • Women who have led sedentary life styles should begin with physical activity of very low intensity and advance activity levels gradually.
  • Activity should be stopped and a doctor notified if any unusual symptoms appear.

When you should not exercise

Though exercise in pregnancy is generally safe, expectant mothers should be aware of warning signs. If any of these symptoms occur, stop exercising and contact your doctor : sudden and severe abdominal pain; regular uterine contractions lasting 30 minutes once exercising stops; dizziness; and vaginal bleeding. Other signs are decreased fetal activity, visual disturbances, or numbness in any part of the body.

For some women, such as those with heart disease, thrombophlebitis (blood clots), recent pulmonary embolism, or for those who have a "high risk" pregnancy, exercise may not be recommended. In taking the complete medical history, the doctor will determine if maternal conditions limit, or exclude, an exercise program.

Most women are able to safely participate in an exercise program during pregnancy (Md Med J, 1996; 45(8):637-41). As long as an expectant mother listens to her body's cues and follows common sense guidelines, exercise can be a valuable way to improve overall well being during this special time. And, best of all, a fit mother will feel her very best right from the start of her new baby's life.