Pregnancy Exercise: Your Questions Answered

Pregnancy can be a confusing time. You want to do what is best for you and your baby but there are so many people giving you advice that sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. When I was pregnant I found that a lot of the advice about exercise was quite outdated. Many people were keen to tell me that pregnancy is a good time to put your feet up and that it was not safe to exercise.

So, to help guide you through some of the common misconceptions around exercising in pregnancy Mama on the Move have put together the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions...

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Research shows that if your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is actually much healthier for you and your baby to stay active during your pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who exercise have less risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. One study also showed that women who were previously active and stopped exercising in their first trimester had longer labour times and more interventions during delivery than those who kept exercising to the end of their pregnancy. If you are concerned about your baby being jolted around as you exercise, don’t worry – this isn’t the case. Your baby is securely protected in your womb.Now you’re pregnant, being active will boost your health and it’s good for your unborn baby, too:

Benefits to your baby

  • Being active will reduce your likelihood of having pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which means less risk for your baby.
  • Women who do weight-bearing exercise (exercise where your feet and legs support your weight, such as walking, some yoga, dancing and so on) during pregnancy can have a shorter labour time with fewer complications.

Benefits to you

  • Being active makes you feel good, reduces stress and gives you more energy.
  • If you’re active, it’s easier to manage your weight during pregnancy and lose any extra weight after your baby is born.
  • Being active will help you sleep better at night.
  • You are less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, tiredness or back pain.
  • Being active helps reduce constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem.
  • Exercise may help you cope with labour and delivery better.
  • It can reduce levels of anxiety and depression in pregnancy.
  • You can exercise during your pregnancy even if you have not been active before. Walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga or aquanatal classes are good ways to exercise during pregnancy.

If you have any medical complications in pregnancy, talk to your doctor or midwife before you exercise. They can advise you on the levels of activity that are safe for you and your baby.

Does exercise cause premature birth?

Not in itself. In fact, women with uncomplicated pregnancies who exercise have been shown to have a reduced risk of premature birth.

I'm overweight. What exercise can I do?

Most types of exercise are fine even if you are overweight. Being active during your pregnancy is safe and healthy for you and your baby.

Is it safe to keep doing my normal exercise classes?

It should be fine to continue with your usual class as long as you tell your teacher about your pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses we recommend that you find teachers who are qualified in prenatal exercise so they can advise you how to modify exercises so that you can continue to exercise safely. In our pregnancy programmes we have created information sheets outlining how to adapt your usual gym classes for the different stages of pregnancy.

Can I start doing Pilates or yoga now that I am pregnant?

Yes, you can. Yoga and Pilates are great forms of exercise to do during pregnancy as it doesn’t put too much strain on your joints. They have also been shown to reduce anxiety and to help women stay calm in pregnancy and labour.

When should I stop running in pregnancy?

If you’re used to running, it’s fine to carry on during your pregnancy as long as you feel comfortable. If you have not been running previously start with walking and slowly build up to a gentle jog.

At what stage should I stop exercising?

As long as you feel comfortable and you have no medical issues in pregnancy, you can carry on exercising right up until your baby is born.

How do I know how hard to push myself?

Avoid using your heart rate to monitor your exercise program. During pregnancy, your resting heart rate increases and your maximal heat rate decreases so using a target heart rate to guide the intensity of your workout is not recommended. Research shows an easier and safer way to go is to monitor your exertion level using Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale.

Throughout pregnancy, exercising at moderate intensity is considered safe. On the Borg RPE Scale, moderate intensity is a rating of 12 to 14 — a level that feels somewhat hard (that is, you can still talk while exercising without feeling exceedingly short of breath).

What does ‘being active’ in pregnancy mean?

Any activity that makes you feel warm and a little bit out of breath counts towards your exercise goal.
Walking briskly, going up and down stairs and putting a bit more energy into doing the housework or gardening all count. You don’t have to do organised exercise unless you want to. The main rule is to be as active as possible – how you do it is up to you. As well as being more active in the things you do every day, you could try swimming, dancing, jogging and suitable exercise classes.

Is there any exercise I shouldn’t do now I’m pregnant?

It’s best to avoid sports where your bump could be hit, such as football, hockey and martial arts. Activities where you risk falling, such as skiing or horse riding, are best avoided too. Exercise in a very hot environment, such as Bikram yoga, can cause overheating and so is not advisable.

At Mama on the Move it is our mission to normalise exercise during pregnancy and we are passionate about getting more women to stay fit and healthy during this important time. You may not be aware but the four UK Chief Medical Officers recently commissioned the Physical Activity and Pregnancy Study, led by a group based at the University of Oxford. Their recommendations were that pregnant women should complete 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. If you would like more information on how to exercise safely during you pregnancy check out our pregnancy programme or email at us at mamaonthemoveuk@gmail.com.

Laura and Tamsin x