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How to Exercise Safely During Pregnancy

Posted on April 14, 2018

Dear Dr. Stephens:

I love running and was able to do so during my first pregnancy, but I’m concerned about exercising since I’m considered high risk this time. What can I do to stay active?

Gary Stephens, DO, FACOOG
Gary Stephens, DO, FACOOG

Exercise during pregnancy can be very beneficial for you and your baby. It helps keep your body strong, reduces physical discomforts (like backache, muscle cramps, and fatigue), improves sleep, and keeps your baby healthy. Exercise also helps you recover after your baby is born.

Most women can exercise safely during pregnancy. If you were a runner before you got pregnant, you can likely continue to do so as long as your physician says it’s okay. We recommend all women, regardless of whether your pregnancy is considered high risk, talk first with your doctor about whether physical activity is safe for you and your baby during pregnancy.

If your doctor says it’s okay to work out, try doing so for 30 minutes a day. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slowly and build up to 30 minutes a day, or exercise three times a day for ten minutes each time.

When to Avoid Exercising

Remember to talk with your physician about exercising while pregnant. It isn’t safe if you’re experiencing:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Increased heart rate – although your heart rate is typically higher while pregnant
  • Chest pain or a severe headache
  • Sudden pain or swelling in your calf
  • Certain health problems, like high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Cervical problems
  • Leaking of amniotic fluid
  • Preterm labor in current or previous pregnancies
  • Decreased activity from your baby or other complications

If you experience any of these symptoms during or after exercising, call your physician immediately.

Exercises to Do

Many communities offer prenatal exercise classes. Here are some good workouts to try during your pregnancy:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Certain aerobics and yoga classes
  • Cycling on a stationary bike

Exercises to Avoid

There are some activities you should not do during your pregnancy, including:

  • Anything that can cause a serious fall
  • Vigorous activity in hot, humid weather
  • Exercising on your back after the first trimester (because of reduced blood flow to the uterus)
  • Anything that requires you to hold your breath
  • Contact sports
  • High altitude or water skiing
  • Scuba diving
  • Horseback riding

Important Tips for Exercising

Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, supportive athletic shoes, and a good fitting bra. Drink plenty of water before, during and after you work out. Listen to your body and slow down or stop if you’re feeling out of breath, overheated, or dizzy.

Learn More

If you’re interested in speaking with one of our high-risk pregnancy physicians or nurses, please call (865) 331-2020.

Click here to learn more about safely exercising while pregnant.

Disclaimer: please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you have a specific medical question or issue, we encourage you to call our office at (865) 331-2020 and schedule an appointment.


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