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How to plan your physical activity during pregnancy

In this article, we discuss how to plan your physical activity during pregnancy, and the exercises and activities to avoid.
© Trinity College Dublin

In this article, we are going to help you to plan how you will get active, and get fit for your labour and birth.

You shouldn’t experience pain while exercising. If you do get pain, stop exercising. Talk to your healthcare professional and seek their advice before returning to exercise.

What type of exercises can I do?

Lots of exercises and activities are perfectly safe during pregnancy. These include:

  • Walking or gentle jogging (if you were used to jogging before)
  • Cycling, at a speed of fewer than 10 miles per hour, on level ground or with few hills
  • Dancing, like ballroom and line dancing – avoid spinning and jumping
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics – if you are just starting aerobics, let the instructor know you are pregnant.
  • Resistance training (lifting weights, but not heavy weights that put a strain on your tummy or your pelvic floor)
  • Elliptical trainer (cross-trainer)

As you progress in your pregnancy, you may find that some exercises become difficult to do, so try some lighter exercises such as:

  • Yoga, pilates or gentle stretching
  • Swimming, but at a more gentle pace
  • Aerobics in water

The key message is to keep exercising and keep stretching, so long as you and your baby are healthy, well and you have no pain while exercising.

Remember to keep doing Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (PFMEs) regularly throughout your pregnancy. They will help prevent leaking urine in later pregnancy and after you have your baby.

What exercises and activities should I avoid?

Generally, any exercise that could hurt you or your baby should be avoided. These include:

  • Exercises that involve you lying flat on your back for long periods, particularly after 16 weeks of pregnancy, because the weight of your baby can press down on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart, and this can make you feel faint.
  • Scuba diving, because of the risk of decompression sickness
  • Contact sports, where there’s a risk of your baby being hit and harmed, such as kickboxing, judo, hockey
  • Exercises and activities that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, rock climbing, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics, because a fall may hurt your baby. Some professional online advice sites say these activities could be continued, but only with caution and care, and after checking with your healthcare professional.

Continue to plan your exercise over the next 7 days. Choose from the list of safe exercises and plan your week ahead. If your week looks busy with family, work and life in general, where can you find the time for you? Even that 15 minutes when you can go for a brisk walk?

If you are starting to exercise now, start slowly (for example, with 10-15 minutes walking at least three times a week), and then build up gradually.

Get motivated and get moving – any exercise is good exercise. Exercise is really important for our physical wellbeing and our mental health – make it fun, make it social, make it a habit! Get active and get fit for labour and birth!

© Trinity College Dublin
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