Exercise During Pregnancy


If you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy, there are so many benefits to staying active during a time when your body is going through incredible changes. Exercise during pregnancy and movement can help support a pain-free, healthy pregnancy as well as prepare your body for the task ahead…labour and delivery, oh and the small matter of being a mum!

Being active can also help to:

  • improve your sleep
  • reduce the risk of back and pelvic pain
  • improve your mood and wellbeing
  • maintain a healthy weight gain
  • prevent/help manage diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • prevent high blood pressure
Exercise During Pregnancy

Is it safe for all women to exercise during pregnancy?

According to the POGP (pelvic, obstetric and gynaecological physiotherapy), for the majority of women, it is safe to exercise and actively encouraged during pregnancy.

There are some conditions which can complicate pregnancy, where exercise may not be encouraged or consent from your GP, consultant or midwife must be given. In the following cases your healthcare provider will be able to tell you if exercise is safe and give any appropriate limitations:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • reduced baby (Foetal) movements
  • any heart/lung/kidney/thyroid disease
  • history of recurrent miscarriage or premature labour or ‘small for dates’ baby
  • poorly controlled Type1 Diabetes Mellitus (DM)
  • have been told that you have a placenta lying low in the uterus (placenta praevia) after 26weeks of pregnancy or early placenta praevia
  • have unstable blood pressure (high or low)
  • lack of iron in your blood (anaemia)
  • have Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
  • are extremely overweight or underweight
  • are a heavy smoker
  • have pelvic and/or low back pain

How hard and how much?

Exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial and according to the NHS guidelines, as a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably working too hard.

Are you…

ALREADY ACTIVE? If you are an active person, keeping up your usual level of activity is encouraged for as long as you feel comfortable, however, remember your focus should be to maintain or moderately improve your level of fitness rather than pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

The golden number you are aiming for is…150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.

LESS ACTIVE? If you were not very active before you got pregnant, it’s not advised to suddenly take up strenuous exercise. Gently starting an exercise programme is great (brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling or aerobics classes), however, please…

  • Inform your instructor that you're pregnant
  • Begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week.
  • You can gently increase this to daily 20/30-minute sessions.


If you are moving and raising your heart rate, it counts! gardening, dancing in the kitchen, playing with older children or doing housework. You don’t have to be sweating in the gym.

Pelvic Activity for Pregnant Women

For up-to-date government advice on physical exercise in pregnancy and after childbirth See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-guidelines-infographics

Exercises to avoid in pregnancy

  • CONTACT SPORTS: ‘don’t bump the bump!’ – avoid contact sports where there's a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash,
  • FALLS RISK: horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to your baby.
  • SCUBA DIVING – Another one to avoid…there is a risk of decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream)
  • HIGH ALTITUDE: do not exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level – this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness.
  • LYING FLAT: After 16 weeks, the weight of your bump when lying flat for long periods can compress the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint.

What kind of exercises ARE recommended?


  • Raising your heart rate with activities such as brisk walking, static bike, cross-training or swimming. To ensure you are working at a ‘moderate level’, the clue is…you should be out of breath but still able to talk.


  • Body weight functional exercise, lifting light weights, aerobics and circuit training are all great for building muscle tone and strength. If you’ve never done strength training before, it’s a good idea to speak to your Mummy MOT practitioner to ensure you are doing the exercises safely. If you are used to weight training, there are some modifications we can show you to enable you to continue training safely.


  • Swimming and aqua aerobics are the perfect exercise to do when you’re pregnant, especially in the later stages when your bump is getting bigger. Your weight is supported and therefore, the risk of injury is lower.


  • Gentle stretching and toning exercises like Yoga and Pilates are fantastic during pregnancy. Try a class designed for pregnancy or, if you are continuing with a general class, let your instructor know that you’re pregnant. Hip-opening stretches are fantastic to prepare your body for labour. Remember, lying on your back for a long period is not recommended.


  • We go on about these a lot! These can be started straight away and right through your pregnancy and beyond. The key is you are doing them effectively. For detailed information about how to do pelvic floor exercises please see Pelvic Floor Exercises During Pregnancy.


Are you pregnant and unsure what exercise you could be doing or are you having any issues with pelvic, lower back or hip pain? Please contact a mummy MOT practitioner. We can fully assess your posture, strength and function and then set you up with a program suited to your needs.

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