Staying Active During Pregnancy: The Benefits of Exercise for You and Your Baby

Staying Active During Pregnancy: The Benefits of Exercise for You and Your Baby

Pregnancy may seem like a good time to hit the sofa for extended periods, but actually for most women exercise is recommended by doctors from start to (almost) finish. The right kind of exercise is good for mother and baby, as well as giving mental well-being a welcome boost in what can be a hormonally unstable time, to say the least. Having said that, there are definite dos and don’ts for pregnant ladies when it comes to working out, and you should never embark on a fitness regime without the guidance and consent of your doctor — so make sure you check with them first! Let’s look at the benefits of exercise for you and your baby. 

Why exercise during pregnancy? 

The more active you are during your pregnancy, the better your body will be able to adapt to changes in shape and weight. If you already exercise regularly - great! Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing (unless it falls under the no-nos list, more on that later) until you don’t feel comfortable doing it anymore.Exercising is not risky for your baby - studies show that staying active actually reduces the risk of complications as you progress. 

Back pain

Unsurprisingly, back pain is probably the most common complaint for pregnant women — the natural curve of the spine increases to cope with the extra weight of the bump. Exercise can help ease this discomfort, especially low-impact activities such as pilates or yoga. 


An increase in your body’s progesterone levels often causes constipation - this is because your muscles are relaxing, and so too is your digestive system. Exercise can stimulate your bowels — walking, swimming, or yoga is ideal. 

Mental health

While many associate pregnancies with radiance and joy,swirling hormones can cause anxiety or even serious depression. Even if you don’t have any worrying symptoms, exercising is a good way to promote mental well-being during your pregnancy, whether it’s aerobic exercises or something more meditative. 

Energy levels

Many pregnant women complain of feeling sluggish and tired in the daytime. A pregnancy-safe workout will get the blood (and endorphins) pumping, and leave the body invigorated. And once the energy is up, the day can be used more productively, which also helps the mood. 

Healthier sleep

On the other hand, insomnia is another common complaint. Exercise promotes healthy sleep, by tiring the muscles and calming the mind. Meditation and yoga also promote shut-eye. 

Reduces complications 

While most pregnancies proceed without complications, there are inherent risks in carrying a child. Exercise has been shown to lessen the chances ofsome common problems, such as preeclampsia, hypertension, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), weight gain, rate of spontaneous abortion, congenital abnormalities, and incidence of preterm labour. Exercise also helps regulate and normalise weight gain, for both mother and baby. 

Checking with your doctor

It’s important that you speak to your doctor before exercising when you’re pregnant. Healthy women are usually given the green light, but women that suffer from heart or respiratory problems may be advised not to work out. High blood pressure that has developed during the pregnancy is also a sign that exercise may be unsafe, as are cervical or placenta issues. Even if you’re healthy, take the doctor’s advice. 

Unsafe exercises

There are some sports and activities that are risky, even for healthy women. Let’s run through some of the things to avoid:

  • Contact sports - that means football, volleyball, basketball, ice hockey, etc. 
  • Combat sports - fairly obvious, but don’t go in for any boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, or martial arts of any kind 
  • Scuba diving - you risk decompression sickness for you and your baby
  • Fall risks - skiing, gymnastics, horse riding, anything that involves attaching wheels to your feet
  • Impacts with water - no diving, waterskiing, or surfing 
  • Hot yoga or hot pilates

Listen to your body

It’s important to listen to your body - if you notice any problems (dizziness, headaches,vaginal bleeding / unusual discharge, etc.) then stop whatever exercise is causing them, and talk to your doctor. Pace yourself - if you were unfit to start with then you’ll need to start slow, just as you would any fitness regime. If it hurts, don’t do it. 

Exercising can greatly benefit pregnant women, easing discomfort and boosting general well-being. But (and I apologise for repeating this several times—it is important!) any type of exercise during this period should be given the green light by your doctor.