10 fitness activities to do when pregnant

Updated: May 1

Before pregnancy, you exercised for health, fitness and the feel-good factor. That doesn’t have to change just because you’ve got a baby on board. You can keep moving and stay healthy in pregnancy.

In fact, exercise in pregnancy is not only allowed, it is recommended. Mums-to-be who stay active:

  • reduce stress, depression and anxiety

  • minimise their risk of high blood pressure

  • enjoy better sleep

  • are more likely to have an active labour

You might need to change what you do and how you do it, but there’s no reason to abandon your healthy routines for the next nine months. Here are ten pregnancy-safe exercises for mums-to-be.

1. Aerobic classes

Aerobics classes combine cardio and strength training to keep your heart, lungs and muscles in shape. If you did aerobics classes before you got pregnant, there’s no need to hang up your leg warmers just yet. Let your instructor know you’re pregnant and aim for no more than 30 minutes per session. If you’re new to aerobics, you should work up to just 15 minutes per session.

  • Stick to low impact exercises – that means no jumping! Keep one foot on the floor at all times.

  • Stay hydrated and make sure you are never struggling for breath.

  • As your bump grows, your balance will change, so slow down your movements to reduce the risk of falling.

So long as you follow your instructor’s guidance, you should be able to enjoy aerobics three times a week for the duration of your pregnancy.

2. Cycling

Cycling is a relaxing, low impact way to enjoy the fresh air and get some gentle exercise. Work within your limits and don’t over exert yourself by becoming out of breath. Obviously, you’ll be limited by the size of your bump and how comfortable you feel on your bike. However, for the first and second trimesters, you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up your cycling routine.

By your third trimester, your bigger bump means your centre of gravity will change. This can increase your risk of falling, whatever activity you’re doing. So most organisations recommend you don’t cycle in the third trimester, as the risk of injuring the baby is higher if you fall from a bike or at speed.

  • Avoid rough surfaces that could throw you off balance

  • Don’t cycle at high altitude – that affects oxygen flow to the baby

  • Stay hydrated and make sure you are never struggling for breath

Taking proper precautions, you can enjoy a cycling for the first six months of pregnancy. So why not pack a picnic and plan a leisurely ride through the countryside for a stress-busting, smile-making cycle.

3. Pilates

Pilates is a low-impact exercise that improves your posture and core strength. It strengthens your back and stomach muscles, as well as that pesky pelvic floor, which are all areas that can potentially cause problems for pregnant ladies. So it is a great activity for mums-to-be to improve their pregnancy well-being, build muscle strength and bust stress.

So long as you tell your instructor that you’re pregnant so that they can adjust any movements to suit you, you’ll be fine doing Pilates throughout your pregnancy.

  • Avoid any exercises that involve lying on your back – this can stay blood and oxygen flow to the baby

  • In your third trimester, avoid any exercises that require balance, as your centre of gravity changes thanks to your bump

  • As with all exercise during pregnancy, stay hydrated

4. Running

Running in pregnancy has a bad rap. Many pregnant women are scared to run when pregnant. Not only because of the perceived risks to baby but fear of what people will think. However, running in pregnancy is safe, so long as you adjust your routine to accommodate the change to your body.

Now isn’t the time to take up running, so if you’re considering a couch-to-5k to get fit during pregnancy, don’t! But if you were a runner before becoming pregnant, you can continue your regime with just a few changes. You’ll need to:

  • reduce the intensity and mileage of your runs as your pregnancy progresses

  • take extra caution to prevent falls (such as running on even ground)

  • stay hydrated and make sure you are never struggling for breath

A 2018 survey by Parkrun reviewed birth outcomes for 1,000 women who ran during pregnancy. They found that most babies were born at full term, with no difference in rates of premature birth or low birthweight. So jog on, mum-to-be!

5. Strength / Weight training

At Sportee Mommee, we love seeing strong women lifting weights. It is such an inspiring and empowering sight. It is a great way to prepare for carrying around your little (and not so little) one as they grow. Strength training can help strengthen your body for labour and improve your mood. Follow the guidance of your gym instructor to make sure your chosen activities are safe for you and baby.

  • Avoid jerky movements that could pull a muscle

  • Reduce the weight of what you life and increase repetitions

  • Don’t hold your breath while lifting – your body and baby need oxygen

Using common sense and taking proper precautions, weight training is a safe way to strengthen your body and mind for pregnancy, labour and motherhood.

6. Swimming

Swimming is the classic pregnancy exercise. The water supports your bulging bump and takes the pressure off your joints. And in the third trimester especially, when carrying a whole human in your belly can get a bit hot, a cooling dip in the pool can be just what you need.

It is unlikely you’ll over-exert yourself swimming but there are a few precautions you’ll need to take to make sure you swim safely.

  • Don’t get out of breath or hold your breath for too long – baby needs a constant supply of oxygen

  • Avoid the steam room or jacuzzi, as raising your body temperature can be harmful for baba

  • Take extra care walking around the edge of the pool to avoid slipping

Given all physical and mental health benefits of swimming during pregnancy, we heartily encourage you to grab your swimsuit and head down to the pool. You can even invest in a swim bra if your bigger boobs are threatening to overflow your cossie cups!

7. Tai Chi

Martial arts in pregnancy are not advised as all contact sports are a complete no-no for sportee mommees. However, one martial art with lots of pregnancy benefits is tai chi. This is a non-contact activity that encourages posture, balance and flexibility.

Through fluid movements and deep breathing, it builds strength without straining anything. Even if you’ve not done it before, this gentle exercise is perfect for pregnancy. It is thought to be especially good for back pain and circulatory problems – two common problems for mums-to-be.

8. Walking

Even in your third trimester, when your walk might resemble more of a waddle, you can keep walking throughout your pregnancy. Doctors are happy for pregnant women to walk up to thirty minutes, five days a week. Which means you can still get out walking your pooch or taking a stroll with friends.

Walking brisky or up a hill is fine, so long as you’re not out of breath. You should be able to maintain a conversation as that means you’re not getting too out of breath. If you’re just walking the dog, maybe wait till no-one is looking if you want to have a chat!

As with all exercise during pregnancy:

  • walk within your limits, don’t push yourself too hard

  • walk on a flat surface to minimise the risk of tripping or falling

  • stay hydrated and in breath

  • avoid walking in bright sunshine or hot weather

Walking is one exercise where you can safely increase your activity levels during pregnancy. Try to get out for a walk once a day to boost your mood, increase your fitness and get some fresh air pumping through your lungs.

9. Yoga

Like Pilates, yoga is a gentle exercise that improves strength, posture and balance. Yoga is so beneficial to pregnant women that you’ll find plenty of classes specifically for mums-to-be.

Look online for reputable classes near you. These classes will be tailored to the needs of pregnant women and your instructor will be trained in teaching poses for different abilities and trimesters. You’ll learn breathing techniques that can help you during labour, as well as stretches and poses designed to help your body prepare for the physical changes of childbirth and parenthood.

If you already attend a yoga class and don’t want to change it, make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant and adjust your routine accordingly. This is especially important in third trimester as your centre of gravity can make you more wobbly on your feet. Do not do Bikram yoga or any classes that take place in heated rooms as this is harmful for baby.

10. Zumba

Ok, we picked zumba because it starts with a Z and is a nice way to end our mini A-Z of pregnancy exercises. But any kind of dancing can be beneficial in pregnancy. Not only do you get the physical benefits of moving your beautiful pregnant body, you also get an emotional boost from enjoying music and good company.

Like aerobics classes, you should stick to low-impact moves. Speak to your instructor so you can adjust your activity according to your fitness and energy levels. Try singing along to the songs to make sure you’re not getting too out of breath.

  • Stay hydrated and take breaks if you need to

  • Make sure you are not out of breath or overheating

  • Avoid moves that risk you losing your balance

  • Stick to low impact moves (no jumping)

Follow these tips and you’ll be perfectly safe getting your groove on and treating baby to a boogie.

We hope this list has given you the confidence to keep moving in pregnancy or even try something new. Yes, you’ll still get well-meaning enquiries about whether it is safe for baby and encouraging you to ‘take it easy’. But health professionals and fitness experts know that appropriate exercise is beneficial to mums-to-be. So take care and treat yourself to some stress relieving, muscle strengthening, sleep promoting exercise today.

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