How to Exercise Safely Through Your Pregnancy UPDATED

This blog post has been updated to reflect the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity.

Cardiovascular Exercise and Resistance Training
”All women without contraindication should be physically active throughout pregnancy. Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful health benefits and reductions in pregnancy complications. Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of three days per week; however, being active every day is encouraged.”(1)

Moderate-intensity means you can talk but not sing. “Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits.”(2) We recommend focusing on muscular endurance, which is usually defined at 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetition with a moderate resistance.

Choose activities that you enjoy, are comfortable and do not put you in danger of falling, colliding with others, projectiles, high altitudes or decompression (I.E. scuba diving).  Some examples are low impact aerobics class, power walking, stationary cycling, swimming, aquatic fitness. If you were already doing moderate to high impact exercise like running, it does not cause you pain, and you are following the guidelines above, then it should be safe to continue. We recommend discussing this with your healthcare provider.

Core Exercises
Pregnant women need strong core muscles in order to prevent pain, injury and to maintain good posture and function.  “Pelvic floor muscles training (PMFT) may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Instruction on proper technique is recommended to obtain optimal benefits.” (3) Seek out a prenatal specific fitness class or personal trainer so they can help you with your technique.

“Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise position to avoid the supine position.” (4)

If you have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation), or are not sure if you have one, please read this important article.  Certain core exercises can actually make it worse.

Flexibility
Maintaining healthy flexibility and mobility can prevent pain and injury during pregnancy.  Pregnant women should stretch gently after each workout and consider adding prenatal yoga to their routine.  Stretches for the chest and front of the shoulders can help with preventing and correcting excessive kyphosis (rounding forward of the back and forward position of the chin) and internal rotation of the shoulders, both common pregnancy posture challenges.  Excessive lordosis, when the growing uterus pulls the pelvis forward, creating an excessive inward curve of the lower back, is common during pregnancy and leads to low back pain. Stretches for the low back, hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings can help.

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin softens connective tissue to make room for your growing baby. It is postulated that this may make pregnant women more vulnerable to overstretching.  For this reason many healthcare providers recommend gentle stretching.

To view the full joint CSPE-SOGC guidelines click here.

(1), (2), (3), (4) 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy