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Exercise In Pregnancy

Exercise in Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a confusing time in terms of knowing what is “safe” and “unsafe” with regards to exercise. Fear of doing harm and lack of knowledge around the benefits and recommendations for exercise in pregnancy often results in people avoiding physical activity altogether. Most of the time, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks so let’s discuss what involved in determining the best type of exercise for the pregnant body!


There are so many changes that happen during pregnancy and these can influence the type, duration and frequency of the physical activity you do. Some of these include:

  • Cardiovascular (risk of feeling faint, increased heart rate)
  • Respiratory (shortness of breath comes on quicker)
  • Metabolic (need more calories and oxygen)
  • Hormonal (mood and concentration changes)
  • Renal (need to urinate more frequently)
  • Musculoskeletal (joint laxity, pelvic girdle pain, abdominal separation)
  • Pelvic floor (increased load)

That’s a lot of adjustment for the body to take on, especially over 9 months! However, we know that exercise is so good for you normally, and that doesn’t change during pregnancy. In fact, it’s been shown that physical activity in pregnancy:

  • Improves/maintains fitness
  • Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes (and the risk of gestational diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes postpartum)
  • Reduces risk of pre-eclampsia
  • Can reduce low back pain
  • Helps with swelling
  • Improves emotional well-being
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Increases the likelihood of a vaginal delivery
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises reduce bladder leakage in pregnancy and postpartum

In fact, in 20 years’ time, exercise results in less weight gain and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (yes, you read that correct- if you exercise in pregnancy NOW you can reap the benefits in 20 YEARS! Pretty cool, hey).

The minimum amount of physical activity recommended in pregnancy by the World Health Organisation is… exactly the same as non-pregnant adults!

150-300 minutes moderate intensity aerobic exercise + 2 x strength sessions/week


So, what sort of exercise should you do to meet these requirements? That’s a tricky question as everyone’s pregnancy, baseline fitness level, pelvic floor function and likes/dislikes are different! This is where an individual approach to determining suitability is important. What may be good exercise for you may not be right for your friend! However, some great low-impact cardiovascular options are swimming, cycling and walking.

Some general rules in pregnancy exercise include:

  • Make sure you’re not working too hard by always being able to maintain a conversation
  • Make sure you’re hydrated
  • Eat before exercise
  • Avoid overheating
  • Stop exercise if you are out of breath, experiencing any pain or bleeding or if it causes bladder leakage and vaginal heaviness

It is always recommended that you check with your obstetric provider before you begin any new exercise, especially as there are some conditions in pregnancy where you should not exercise. There is a downloadable form called the PARmed-X Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination (google it!) that you can give to your provider to fill out and then hand on to your physiotherapist/personal trainer/fitness instructor.


An antenatal assessment with your physiotherapist can help determine what physical activity is right for you. Often this will include a discussion about baseline fitness, assessment of abdominal separation, pelvic floor muscle assessment and addressing any other issues you may have (e.g. pelvic girdle pain, bladder leakage). If you would like to have an antenatal assessment, please call (08) 9797 1111 or book a Pelvic health consult online with Ebony.


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