Exercising whilst Pregnant, the low down

Tips from Sport Rehabilitator, Dr Marlize de Vivo.

Dr Marlize de Vivo, Sport Rehabilitator and Research Fellow from Canterbury Christ Church University
shares top tips and all you need to know about the new guidelines from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers.

Congratulations! You are pregnant. There’s so much to think about now without having to worry about what
exercise is safe to do and how much you need to do. This article is here to help, with clear guidance so
you can be active and keep yourself healthy.

We will talk about different intensities of exercise, share examples of what you can do and should avoid
and give info on how much physical activity you should aim for.

If you enjoyed an active lifestyle before being pregnant you can continue to be active, if you weren’t
previously active start gradually with 10 minute bouts of moderate intensity physical activity and build
up to 150 minutes throughout the week. New guidance recommends that healthy pregnant women with
uncomplicated pregnancies should aim for a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity
and 8–12 repetitions of muscle strengthening activities each week.

What is Moderate intensity physical activity?
Moderate activities make you breathe faster whilst still being able to hold a conversation, for example,
walking briskly, bike riding, dancing, swimming and active travel.


I am a marathon runner? Is it still OK to do vigorous exercise?
No matter how physically fit and how used to a certain activity or sport you are when you become pregnant,
pregnancy involves significant anatomic and physiological changes and adapting certain activities may be
necessary. If you already take part in vigorous intensity activities consider how you can adjust the
frequency, intensity, type and amount of activity as your pregnancy progresses, for example, replace
vigorous running with jogging or walking. A key safety message from the new guidance is that pregnant
women should listen to their bodies and adapt their physical activities accordingly. If you are in doubt
or are concerned, speak to you midwife, healthcare or exercise professional.

Vigorous intensity physical activities are not recommended for pregnant women who are new to physical
activity. This includes activities such as running, racquet sports, and strenuous strength training.
If you are not active, start gradually and aim for a moderate intensity.


What are muscle strengthening exercises?
New guidance recommends 8–12 repetitions of muscle strengthening activities involving all major muscle
groups twice a week. Muscle strengthening activities involve using your body weight or working against a
resistance such as a resistance band, free weights or kettle bells. Body weight activities may include
specific exercises such as squats or lunges but you can also include muscle strengthening activities
in your daily routine, for example, taking the stairs or walking uphill.

If you are training in a gym always let your instructor know that you are pregnant. Remember not to use
heavy weights or overdo it, don’t hold your breath, avoid doing repeated isometric holds, and try to limit
lifting weights above your head in the last three months of your pregnancy.


What do I need to avoid doing?
Pregnant women should avoid activities where there is a high risk of getting injured or falling, this includes
contact sports, skiing, gymnastics and horse riding. You should also avoid activity that increases physiological
risk (e.g. scuba diving, sky diving or vigorous activities at high altitude). Certain yoga and pilates positions
that involve lying flat on your back should be avoided after the first trimester.


What activities can I do?
There are many pregnancy specific yoga and Pilates classes which you can do. You can also engage in general
activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, dancing and low impact exercise classes like Zumba. Aim to
incorporate physical activity into your daily routines by taking the stairs or walking part of your journey.
Regardless of your chosen activity, always remember to keep cool, comfortable and hydrated and avoid
exercising for too long at a time (over an hour).


Apparently I need to watch how long I sit down for?
There is increasing evidence that we need to spend less time sitting. It is recommended to break up long periods
of sitting time with shorter bouts of activity for a couple of minutes. Tips for this include:
• taking the stairs and walking up escalators
• setting a reminder to get up every 30 minutes
• standing or walking around while on the phone
• taking a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
• walking to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling
• swapping some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies

Not only has evidence found that there is no harm associated with moderate exercise in pregnancy but being
physically active offers many benefits to pregnant women including a reduced risk of developing hypertensive
disorders, improved cardiorespiratory fitness, lower gestational weight gain, reduced risk in developing
gestational diabetes and much more.

A general rule yet golden rule is that if the activity feels pleasant…keep going, but if it is uncomfortable,
stop and seek advice. Exercise safely and help keep your body and baby healthy!

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