How to Exercise Safely During Pregnancy

pregnant women exercising

Exercise is one of the best ways to keep you and your baby healthy throughout your pregnancy.

Rebecca Keller-Tracy, MD
Rebecca Keller-Tracy, MD

“Exercise limits your risk of developing gestational diabetes, promotes good cardiovascular fitness, helps prevent excessive weight gain and reduces back pain during pregnancy,” said Rebecca Keller-Tracy, MD, an MU Health Care OB/GYN. “It can also lower your risk of preeclampsia, which is a dangerous condition marked by high blood pressure.”

In the past, doctors worried that exercise could increase your risk of preterm delivery. However, recent research shows that women who exercise safely during pregnancy do not face this risk.

Speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, because certain medical conditions could make physical exertion dangerous. But once you are given the green light, follow these safety tips:

  • Embrace Moderation: Don’t set out to run a marathon or climb Mount Everest during your pregnancy.

    “Moderate exercise is your safest option,” Keller-Tracy said. “Your workout should increase your heart rate and get you sweating, but it shouldn’t leave you short of breath. If you are new to exercising, start with just 5 minutes of brisk walking every day. Then, once you are comfortable, increase the duration of your workouts in 5-minute increments every week until you are hitting 20-minute sessions.”

    Keller-Tracy said swimming and yoga are also great workout options during pregnancy. However, when doing yoga, avoid poses that involve lying flat on your back, as they can cause dangerous changes to your blood pressure. Many gyms and studios hold prenatal yoga classes that are tailored toward your safety and comfort, so be on the lookout for those in your hometown.
     
  • Take Precautions: Eat a good meal and drink plenty of water before working out. Also wear proper workout attire.

    “Wear a really well-fitting sports bra, because your breasts grow and change during pregnancy, and you want them to be supported,” Keller-Tracy said. “During the workout, drink lots of water and make sure you're well hydrated. Also try to avoid high temperatures. If it’s very hot outside, stay indoors in the air conditioning.”

    Steer clear of workouts that put you at risk of falling or experiencing trauma to your abdomen. This includes all contact sports and activities such as skiing and horseback riding.
     
  • Listen to Your Body: Competitive athletes tend to push through the pain when working out. Ditch this mindset when you are pregnant.

    “Stop exercising immediately and contact a doctor if you experience any discomfort, including contractions, vaginal bleeding or leakage, or extreme shortness of breath,” Keller-Tracy said. “Other warning signs include dizziness, chest pain and calf swelling. Just play it safe and reach out to us whenever you feel like something might be wrong.” 
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