How to Exercise When Expecting

During a first pregnancy, many questions may arise about whether exercising

while pregnant is appropriate? And if so, how much and what kind of exercise?

Well, exercise during pregnancy has been shown to provide many beneficial

effects to both the mother and the developing fetus. The American Congress

of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) shares that exercise during

pregnancy can help reduce back pain, promote healthy weight gain during

pregnancy, improve overall fitness,strengthen blood vessels, and many other


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is recommended that

healthy women should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes)

per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, during and after their pregnancy. The keyword here is “healthy.” If suffering from any conditions, diseases, or are experiencing an abnormal pregnancy, it is important to consult a physician before pursuing any further activity. Healthy women who were active before pregnancy can continue to perform similar exercise provided they discuss with their health care provider how activity should be adjusted throughout the pregnancy.

If you are experiencing splitting of the rectus abdominus, also known as diastasis recti, then consult your physican about how to move forward as well. Although this is common in many pregnancies, modifications need to be made to the program to help limit this separation.

Some examples of moderate intensity activity recommended by ACOG are brisk walking, water activity, or stationary biking. An activity is considered at a moderate level if you are able to talk but not sing. For someone who is just starting to exercise, try beginning at 15 minutes of aerobic exercise per day and gradually increase to 30 minutes per day. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) also suggests incorporating flexibility exercises to combat altered posture that often results as the fetus is growing and core-stabilizing exercises to improve the strength of the pelvic floor musculature. Some examples of these core exercises recommended by NASM would be a standing cobra, side planks, standing pelvic tilts, or a plank with arms on an elevated surface. Adding balance exercises can be important as well, as the woman’s center of gravity shifts throughout the trimesters. Incorporate by simply balancing on one leg at a time.

 If cleared by a physician to start or continue resistance training, NASM recommends a circuit training format of 1-3 sets, performing 12-15 repetitions per exercise and resting as much as needed.  This can be performed up to 2-3 days per week. Keep exercises low impact. Avoid exercises that involve lying down on stomach or back while pregnant, as this can affect blood flow to the uterus. Drink plenty of water before, after and during the workouts and avoid overheating, especially in the first trimester.  

Consult your physician if planning on exercising during pregnancy and stop exercising if experiencing any dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath before exercise, headaches, calf pain or spelling, or anything that feels abnormal.

For more resources:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - Exercise During Pregnancy

Center for Disease Control (CDC) - Needs for Pregnant or Postpartum Women

National Academy of Sports Medicine - Exercise and Pregnancy: Physiological Changes and Exercise Programming