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The Importance of Physical Activity During Pregnancy

Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: July 06, 2020

Reviewed: May 26, 2020

The Importance of Physical Activity during Pregnancy
dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Does being pregnant mean saying goodbye to swimming, tennis or another sport you enjoy? Not necessarily.

Being physically active during pregnancy offers women many health benefits, among them a psychological lift, better aerobic fitness and a lower risk of excessive weight gain. For most pregnancies, mild to moderate physical activity benefits mom and won't negatively affect your unborn child. Consider these benefits to staying active during pregnancy. You can:

  • Feel good as your body changes.
  • Promote muscle tone, stamina and strength.
  • Reduce leg and back pain, constipation, swelling and bloating.
  • Promote blood circulation and possibly help prevent varicose veins.
  • Help your posture and balance, which is very important as your center of gravity shifts.
  • Sleep better.
  • Manage stress.
  • Reduce risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
  • Prepare your body for labor and childbirth.

According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, spread throughout the week.

Women who regularly engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or high amounts of physical activity should talk to their health care provider about their activity level throughout their pregnancy. Often they may be able to continue their activity provided that their condition remains unchanged. Even if you didn't exercise before pregnancy, it's still a good idea to include moderate-intensity physical activity during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about how to get started.

Exercise Ideas for Pregnant Women

Some forms of exercise are safer than others during pregnancy. Try these forms of physical activity and incorporate your favorites into your daily routine:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling on a stationary bike
  • Strength training
  • Low-impact aerobic training

Avoid these forms of physical activity while pregnant:

  • Contact sports such as soccer and basketball
  • Heavy weightlifting that involves straining
  • Hot yoga
  • Hiking at high altitudes
  • Kickboxing
  • Downhill skiing or snowboarding
  • Horseback riding
  • Roller skating and ice skating
  • Bike riding

If you experience dizziness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, contractions or vaginal bleeding while exercising, stop immediately and contact your health care provider.

Remember to eat a varied and balanced diet with enough calories to support your baby and your own needs while meeting the physical demands of your activity. Fluid replacement has even more health implications during pregnancy as your own and your baby's blood volume increases. If you don't drink enough fluids, you're at greater risk for dehydration and overheating; early in pregnancy, that can affect the development of your unborn baby. Stay hydrated throughout the day with plenty of water. Most pregnant women need about 13 cups of fluid every day.

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