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Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise is essential for continued good health and is also an excellent way to prepare your body for labor and birth.

It is more important than ever to maintain a safe level of fitness during pregnancy. Generally speaking, now is not the time for you to master new sports that require strenuous exertion. However, brisk walking and swimming are excellent ways to tone up your whole body and can be started during pregnancy.

General guidelines

Exercise on a regular basis (30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most, if not all, days of the week). Start with short periods (5 to 10 minutes) of gentle stretching to warm up. The importance of stretching both before and after exercise cannot be overemphasized.

Always progress slowly to a point where you are feeling comfortable. Intense exercise should last no longer than 15 minutes, and avoid exhausting, marathon sessions. Rest a minute or two between sessions. Your target heart rate, which gives you the best workout, should be no more than 140 beats per minute or 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Stretch and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes afterwards.

Drink fluids before, during and after your exercise session. Do not allow yourself to become overheated or dehydrated. It is not advisable to exercise when you are sick with a fever, such as with a cold or flu.

Listen to your body. Never push yourself to maximum effort or allow yourself to get overtired. An exercise is too demanding if it makes you hold your breath or prevents you from carrying on a normal conversation.

If an activity causes pain and/or excessive fatigue, stop immediately and rest.

Do not exercise or participate in an athletic activity if you are spotting or bleeding vaginally. Stop and consult your doctor or certified nurse midwife if you are experiencing:

  • pain
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid heartbeat
  • palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
  • faintness
  • difficulty walking

Excessive or sudden twisting and bending should be avoided because of the strain placed on the back muscles. Avoid any position or exercise that requires you to arch your lower back. Avoid deep knee bends, full situps, double leg raises, and straight leg-toe touches. In addition, avoid any exercises that require lying on your back for more than a few minutes beyond the twelfth week of pregnancy to assure that your baby is receiving a good oxygen supply.

Talk with your provider if you have any of the following conditions before starting or continuing an exercise routine:

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Preterm labor with this or a previous pregnancy
  • Incompetent cervix or a cerclage
  • Intrauterine growth retardation

As your abdomen gets bigger, your center of gravity will shift, making balance and coordination more difficult.

Try to work some exercise into your daily routine by doing pelvic tilts or Kegels.

Proper protective equipment, good shoes, and a supportive, well-fitting bra are essential to ensure comfort and safety during exercise.

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