The benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Antenatal Education: The benefits of exercise during pregnancy

When I was pregnant with my first baby I stopped exercising completely. Like so many mothers to be, I was full of fear that exercise would hurt my baby, especially running. So, my running shoes got pushed to the back of the cupboard, as I didn’t know which exercises if any I could do. I had so many questions.

Fast forward twelve years, and I now know that exercise during pregnancy is not only beneficial for you and for baby, but really important.

Prenatal Exercise

Exercise and movement are essential for the body throughout our lifetime, and pregnancy is no different. From day one of being pregnant, there is an increased demand on the body as a result of a growing baby. Our clever bodies start to adapt and change, increasing the functional and physiological capacity and capability to sustain the pregnancy. The more we can do to support and strengthen our bodies through these changes, we increase the bodies ability to cope with change.

Which is why I am such a strong advocate of exercise and movement during pregnancy. By continuing or bringing exercise into the natural process, we improve our breathing capacity, endurance, and muscular strength to support our baby’s development, labour and post-pregnancy recovery.

Other benefits of exercising during pregnancy include:

  • Helps to prevent headaches, backache, cramps and constipation
  • Strengthens the pelvic floor
  • Build/maintain muscle strength to support the posture changes and an active, strong labour
  • Release of endorphins into the body
  • Managing excessive weight gain and help weight loss
  • Increase energy, body awareness and confidence
  • Improve or maintain the efficiency of the respiratory and circulatory system which is important through pregnancy and labour
  • Reduce bloating and swelling
  • Support the body for a quicker recovery

What is important, is that we adapt our exercise to suit our capabilities and stage of pregnancy. It will be important to listen to your body and respect when it needs to rest.

You should always check with your midwife or GP if you are ok to start or continue exercising.

So, what types of exercise are good for mum and baby?

If you have been doing regular exercise before becoming pregnant you likely have your favourite go-to activity. Be sure to check with your midwife or GP you are ok to continue with that particular activity. You will often find that this is the safest thing for your body and your baby.  

However, if you are new to regular exercise, start by introducing a regular walk, stretch session or swim to your routine. Just 15-30 minutes of light exercise three times a week can bring huge benefits.

Other types of exercise you can try include stationary cycling, prenatal aerobics, Yoga, Aqua- natal classes and even T’ai chi. These activities will help to stretch and strengthen your muscles. During pregnancy it’s important you avoid overexerting yourself, so try to incorporate exercise in short sessions of 15-30mins three times a week. Remember to warm up the body before doing exercise and finish with some breathing exercises and soft stretches.  


Tips to exercise safely:

  • Always ask your midwife or GP before starting a new type of exercise
  • Stop immediately if you feel faint, lightheaded or breathless during exercise
  • Always exercise at a gentle pace and avoid making jerky or bouncing movements
  • Listen to your body and don’t push yourself – if you need an additional rest day, go for a light walk
  • Never skip the warmup or cool-down stretches when doing aerobic exercises
  • Avoid inversions and opening the legs too wide 
  • Some yoga classes are not suitable for pregnancy so always follow the instructor’s directions
  • Avoid overheating – keep the body cool in light fabrics
  • Drink water while exercising
  • Take the talk test


The talk test?

This is a simple test everyone can do at home to tell if you are doing the right amount of activity while pregnant.

1, You should be doing enough to make you breathe deeply but you shouldn’t have to gasp for breath.

2, You should be able to say a whole sentence before having to take a breath.

3, If you can only say a few words before getting out of breath ease off a bit.


If you are looking for some simple, light exercises to try during pregnancy, be sure to look at the next blog ‘Three simple and safe exercises for pregnant ladies’ HERE. You can also check out my online pregnancy yoga course or join my virtual and face to face classes.

If you have any questions or want further advice, please contact me at