Can You Exercise During Pregnancy?

The answer is yes — if you do it right


By: Karen Cooper, DO

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Many expecting mothers ask this question: Can I exercise during my pregnancy?

The answer is yes, with the right guidance. It is important for you to visit with your doctor first to be sure you have no underlying conditions that might require bed rest or a reduced exercise schedule.

“If you exercise right and don’t push too hard, you can keep yourself healthy — and feeling good — while you prepare for your new arrival.”

Karen Cooper, DO

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Women’s Health Institute

Otherwise, the benefits of exercise are abundant for you and your baby. Exercise can decrease fatigue and swelling; reduce stress; help with constipation, backaches and bloating; and, perhaps most important, lower your chances of developing gestational diabetes. It also can help you maintain an appropriate weight to avoid the issues that come with obesity during pregnancy.

How active were you before?

Your physical activity level during pregnancy will depend on how active you were before becoming pregnant.

Were you not very active before pregnancy? If so, you should start out slowly and gradually increase your workout to 3–4 times per week for 30 minutes at a time. Activities that will help you stay fit while being gentle on the body include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Be sure to slow down if you feel pain or are unable to breathe normally. Both are signs that you are pushing yourself too hard.

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If you were a fitness buff before pregnancy, then you should remain active — but not quite as vigorously. For example, don’t work through pain or discomfort like you would have if you were training for a marathon. This can lead to overexertion, which requires more oxygen and can take away from the baby’s supply.

You should also stop exercising if you experience symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, a lack of fetal movement, or if your membrane breaks. If any of these things occur, call your doctor immediately. And no matter what your fitness level is, avoid activities that can cause trauma during pregnancy, such as horseback riding, downhill skiing or full-contact sports.

Beyond these cautions, though, listen to your body. If you exercise right and don’t push too hard, you can keep yourself healthy — and feeling good — while you prepare for your new arrival.

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