Exercising at least 30 minutes on most days of the week can benefit health and pregnancy (unless you are placed on bed rest by your doctor during the pregnancy). Exercise will increase your energy, your mood, may improve your sleep and may prevent or treat gestational diabetes. Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after the baby is born.
Walking, swimming, stationary cycling, and low impact aerobics are safe during the pregnancy. If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you often can keep running during pregnancy, although you may have to modify your routine.
In general, activities in which there is a high risk of falling, such as gymnastics, water skiing, snow skiing, and horseback riding, should be avoided. Some racquet sports also increase the risk of falling because of your changing balance. Also, you may be at risk of altitude sickness, an illness caused by breathing air that contains less oxygen. Contact sports, such as hockey, basketball, and soccer should also be avoided. Scuba diving can put your baby at risk of decompression sickness (a serious illness). You should avoid activities such as jumping, jarring motion, or quick changes in direction.
ACOG recommends the following as general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program (ACOG frequently asked questions in pregnancy, August 2011):
- After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back.
- If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
- Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
- Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
- Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
- Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.
Stop exercising and call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Increased shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Uterine contractions
- Decreased fetal movement
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
Walking is a good way to get back into exercising after delivery. Brisk walks several times a week will prepare you for more strenuous exercise when you feel up to it. Walking has the added advantage of getting both you and the baby out of the house for exercise and fresh air. As you feel stronger, consider more vigorous exercise.