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Exercise & Pregnancy: What you Need to Know

Exercise & Pregnancy: What you Need to Know

For most pregnant women, exercise has many physical, mental and emotional benefits. During the first, second and third trimester exercise helps to keep your energy level up, control your weight gain, and build up the stamina you'll need for childbirth. It's important to choose a type of exercise that you enjoy, and that your doctor deems safe during pregnancy. Not all forms of exercise are appropriate during pregnancy so talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine during pregnancy.

How exercise benefits you

  • Helps you to maintain your pre-pregnancy fitness level or get in the habit of being active
  • Helps you to attain your healthy weight gain goals for pregnancy
  • Helps to maintain healthy blood glucose levels
  • Helps with many common pregnancy symptoms such as tiredness, constipation, backaches, leg cramps, and more
  • Helps to prepare your body for labour
  • Helps speed recovery after delivery
  • Greater chance that your baby will be born at a healthy weight

Check with your Doctor first

Most women with normal, healthy pregnancies and can enjoy a sensible exercise program. However, some pregnant women fall into a risk category that makes exercising unwise. This can be women who've had previous miscarriages or premature labours, those with preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and those with heart and lung disease. So before lacing up your sneakers, see your doctor.

Similarly, if you were not active prior to becoming pregnant your doctor may recommend that you wait until the second trimester to begin exercising. Until then, keep up your daily activities such as walking the dog, or taking the stairs.

Know your limits

During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin which relaxes joints and ligaments to make it easier for you to have a baby. With relaxed joints and ligaments you may be at an increased risk of injury when performing certain exercises; others should be avoided entirely such as deep knee bends, full sit-ups, full-leg raises, and straight-leg raises. A warm-up and cool-down should help protect you from injury as well.

Avoid certain activities

Not all activities are safe for pregnant women. Anything that could result in abdominal trauma is something to stay away from. You also have increased weight due to the baby and a shift in your centre of gravity which means your coordination and balance will be off. These changes along with more relaxed joints and ligaments mean that it is easier to fall and injure yourself. Avoid the following:

High-impact sports

Contact and fast-paced team sports, extreme sports, ice skating, high-impact weight-bearing exercises

High altitude workouts 

Altitudes (over 1,800 metres or 6,000 feet) are not recommended for pregnant women as it may affect how much oxygen is delivered to your baby.


Exercising in hot conditions such as in hot yoga, are not recommended1. It is also important to be aware of rising temperatures when exercising outdoors in the summer. And save relaxing in the hot tub or sauna until after your baby is born.

If you have concerns about what may be an appropriate exercise during pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider.

The nine-month stretch

Limit exercise in your ninth month to stretching, walking, stationary cycling, and swimming. If third trimester exercise seems too much of a challenge, slow down or shorten your sessions. In the final two to three weeks, you may want to take it easy and start resting up for labour.

Key points:

  • Always monitor your intensity level and heart rate throughout your workouts
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise
  • Make sure you don't overheat
  • Always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program

Remember: regular activity throughout your pregnancy may mean an easier delivery when baby decides to come. And who wouldn't want that?

If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to contact us for additional support.


1Chan J., et al. Hot yoga and pregnancy: Fitness and hyperthermia (Motherisk Update). Canadian Family Physician. 2014;60(1):41-42.