Exercise in pregnancy: What, when, where and how??

Let’s talk about exercise in pregnancy: what, when, where and how! This is as individual and unique to your exercise preferences and choices as an apple is to a pear!

Without wanting to give you more questions than answers, things to consider are:

Did you exercise before pregnancy?
Are you feeling well/not?
Can you talk and walk ok without severe breathlessness?
Do you have any pregnancy niggles, aches or discomfort?
What exercise do you enjoy?

The best things we can do depend on what we enjoy and what we need.

WHAT exercise in pregnancy?

Breath work – is an exercise form. It can be relaxing, empowering, calming and help you really connect to your body and your baby.

Core work – pregnancy pilates helps you to engage and relax your all important tummy and pelvic floor muscles and keeps you moving. Pilates exercise will strengthen your whole body and make you more body aware which are great for labour and post natal stages.

Yoga – pregnancy led classes are great for body movement and releasing as you move through certain postures and positions. It helps you to calm, connect to your baby and can ease away aches and pains.

Walking – unless you have severe pain we should all be walking in pregnancy. For some of us that may mean doing side steps or backwards walking with support. The distance is irrelevant, the how is important.

Running – not for everyone but if you ran before there is no reason not to continue in pregnancy unless you have been advised not to.

Dancing – carry on and enjoy the movement. Listen to your body and make smaller movements when you get heavier or as your body tells you.


Swimming – carry on and enjoy the lightness the water brings as you offload your joints. Breast stroke legs can aggravate some discomfort in the front of you pelvis so if this is you try crawl legs instead with breast stroke arms if that works, or a different stroke.

Exercise in water – so beneficial and really lovely to offload pressure through your joints. I did a lot of exercises in the water with my second pregnancy, like squats, calf raises, leg extensions, tricep dips in the baby pool. It was a wonderful way to keep mobility and strength in my body.

Lifting heavy – you’re about to have a baby, a car seat, a pram, shopping, etc to LIFT and so strengthening in pregnancy is important. If you have never done this before then please do so with a pregnancy qualified fitness professional. Technique is important in pregnancy. Breathing out with the heavy lift (effort) is important and not holding your breath is crucial to avoid overloading your pelvic floor and abdomen.

Things to consider/avoid:

Contact sports – anything where there is a risk of being hit in the tummy such as;
Kickboxing, Judo, Squash, Netball, Football, Hockey, Basketball, Tennis.

A possibility of a fall/loss of balance such as; Horse Riding, Downhill skiing, Ice skating, Gymnastics, Cycling.

Exercising at an altitude over 2500 metres until you have acclimatised to it.

Exercising flat on your back after 15 weeks can lower your maternal cardiac output as the weight of your growing uterus + baby causes compression to your heart vena cava vein. The signs for this are nausea, feeling faint, dizzy or breathless. Move onto your side if you get any of these symptoms. Please note these symptoms do not happen to everyone but there are so many other positions you can exercise safely in that for many of us, we really don’t need exercise flat on our backs.

Scuba -diving – the BIG No no as your unborn baby is not protected against decompression sickness or gas emboli.

Use your judgement and know your limits.

WHEN should I exercise?

It’s safe for the majority of us to exercise throughout our pregnancies. Listen to your body. You may feel queasy and sickly in your first trimester and not have the energy to do anything or you might feel ok and continue with your normal routine. We are all different. There is no right or wrong way.


WHERE should I exercise?

Ideally alongside a pregnancy qualified fitness instructor/physiotherapist who knows about the changes in pregnancy and can adapt exercises to your needs. Please be mindful of classes that say pregnant people welcome but are not specific classes as many do not have the correct knowledge to ensure you are exercising safely in pregnancy.

Specialist pregnancy led exercise classes in your area are a good starting point or gyms with trainers who have pelvic floor training and awareness. Ask other pregnant or post natal people in your area for recommendations.

HOW much exercise should I be doing in pregnancy?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommend “in the absence of medical or obstetric complications, 30 minute sessions four times a week to daily of moderate exercise”.

You can find an infographic of their guideline here:


If you were previously a non exerciser then start 15 minutes, three times a week building up to the above recommendations.

Effort wise, it is important you maintain a TALK & WALK type of level of exertion if exercising whilst pregnant. Your heart rate is naturally faster and your body temperature can heat up quickly so you need to monitor the intensity of your workout.

Make sure you are working hard enough to start breathing through your mouth and not your nose but you can carry on a conversation.

I hope you find this information useful. For more great pregnancy education and awareness,