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9 Things to Know About Exercise During Pregnancy

Should I be exercising while I’m pregnant? It’s a question that often comes up during the whirlwind of changes that come with expecting a baby. 

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or a casual gymgoer, staying active while growing a tiny human may seem difficult. But there are many good reasons to do it. From boosting your mood to easing pregnancy pains, prenatal exercise has many perks.

With the help of Melissa Brinkman, a family nurse practitioner with Banner Health, we explore the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and nine essential things to know about it.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Regular physical activity can benefit you and your baby when you're pregnant. 

“Exercise can help improve your overall general health and fitness and improve energy,” Brinkman said. "It can maintain and improve cardiovascular and respiratory endurance as well as improve muscle tone and flexibility.” 

But it’s not just about feeling the burn. Brinkman shared other great benefits you can get from exercise during your pregnancy:

  • Reduce pregnancy pains: Regular movement and physical activity may reduce back pain, pelvic pain, muscle pain and stiffness.
  • Healthy digestion: It may regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation, common during pregnancy.
  • Lowers health risks: Exercise may decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy.
  • Weight management: It promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy and helps with post-delivery weight loss.
  • Long-term health: Exercise can promote a healthier lifestyle long after your little one arrives.

And here’s the kicker – exercise isn’t just about the here and now. It can also help you during labor and delivery. 

“Exercise can help you prepare for childbirth, giving you the stamina and strength to get through the process,” Brinkman said. “It also increases the chances of a vaginal delivery, lowers the risk of a C-section and helps speed up recovery time.”

Nine things to know about exercise when you’re pregnant

Before exercising during pregnancy, it’s important to know some key points to keep you and your baby safe. 

  1. Get the green light from your provider: Before starting or continuing any exercise routine during pregnancy, talk to your health care provider. They can give personalized advice and recommendations based on your medical history and any possible risk factors. They can also monitor your progress and adjust your routine, as necessary. “Even with some medical conditions, such as placenta previa, preeclampsia, multiple gestation (like twins) and pre-existing lung or heart conditions, there may be modified exercises that can be done,” Brinkman said. “It’s important to discuss these with your provider.”
  2. Choose suitable activities: Low- to moderate-impact activities that are gentle on your joints, like walking, stationary bikes, swimming, prenatal yoga, stretching and Pilates, are best during pregnancy. These exercises help improve cardiovascular health, flexibility and strength without putting too much strain on your body. If you are an experienced jogger or runner, you may also continue these activities unless your provider has told you otherwise. “Kegel exercises are also helpful,” Brinkman said. “They can help the muscles that support bladder and bowel control.”
  3. Avoid high-risk activities: Now isn’t the time to try downhill skiing or mountain biking. It’s important to steer clear of activities with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma. Say goodbye (for just a little bit!) to activities like horseback riding, skiing or contact sports. 
  4. Don’t overdo it: Exercise has many benefits, but don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion. Overdoing it may cause dehydration and overheating (hyperthermia). “A general rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising,” Brinkman said.
  5. Engage your core: Maintaining a strong core can help with back pain and improve your posture during pregnancy. Add gentle core-strengthening exercises into your routine, like pelvic tilts, modified planks or prenatal Pilates. Just be sure to avoid lying flat on your back after the first trimester.
  6. Stay hydrated: As you exercise, your body temperature rises and you sweat more. This means you need to stay hydrated to prevent overheating and dehydration. Keep a water bottle handy and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
  7. Dress comfortably: Invest in comfortable, breathable workout attire that works with your growing belly. Wear clothes that help you move freely and comfortably. Look for supportive maternity bras and shoes with good arch support to prevent discomfort and injuries. 
  8. Ease into exercise: With new exercise routines,  slowly increase your time (duration) and intensity – especially if you weren’t active before your pregnancy. “If you are new to exercise, start slowly with as little as five minutes a day and gradually add minutes in weekly increments until you get to about 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise (or 150 minutes per week),” Brinkman said. 
  9. Listen to your body: If something doesn’t feel right or causes discomfort, stop immediately and talk to your provider. Warning signs you should stop working out include:


Exercising during pregnancy is safe and recommended for most pregnant people. By listening to your body, choosing suitable activities and being aware of warning signs, you can enjoy a healthy and active pregnancy. 

Remember, every pregnancy is different. Talk to your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist before making any big changes to your exercise routine. 

For more pregnancy-related tips, check out:

Fitness Pregnancy Women's Health