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Exercise and Pregnancy

Based on scientific research in this area, it is considered safe to continue physical exercise during pregnancy. Women are aware of the potential dangers from their sport and the possible contraindications (Hartman and Bung 1999)[1].

It is generally the type of exercise and not the length of time pregnant women participate in their sport that is a problem. Activities considered advisable are jogging, swimming, cycling, golf and walking although they are not without risk. Contact sports (e.g. hockey, football, boxing, etc.) or sports where an injury is a high risk (e.g. horseback riding, skiing, ice skating, etc.) should be avoided.


In 1985, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists developed a set of guidelines for women who plan to exercise during their pregnancy (ACOG 1992)[2].

  1. Women can continue to exercise and derive health benefits during pregnancy, even from mild-to-moderate exercise routines. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity.
  2. Women should avoid exercise in the supine position after the first trimester. Such a position is associated with decreased cardiac output in most pregnant women; because the remaining cardiac output will be preferentially distributed away from splanchnic beds (including the uterus) during vigorous exercise. Such regimens are best avoided during pregnancy. Prolonged periods of motionless standing should also be avoided
  3. Women should be aware of aerobic exercise's decreased oxygen during pregnancy. They should be encouraged to modify their exercise intensity according to maternal symptoms. Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion.
  4. Weight-bearing exercises may be continued at intensities, similar to those before pregnancy throughout pregnancy. Non-weight-bearing exercises may be continued at intensities, similar to those before pregnancy throughout pregnancy. Non-weight-bearing exercises such as cycling, or swimming will minimise the risk of injury and facilitate the continuation of exercise during pregnancy
  5. Morphologic changes in pregnancy should serve as a relative contraindication to types of exercise in which loss of balance could be detrimental to maternal or fetal well-being, especially in the third trimester. Furthermore, any exercise involving the potential for even mild abdominal trauma should be avoided
  6. Pregnancy requires an additional 300 Calories per day to maintain metabolic homeostasis. Thus, women who exercise during pregnancy should be particularly careful to ensure an adequate diet
  7. Pregnant women who exercise in the first trimester should augment heat dissipation by ensuring adequate hydration, appropriate clothing and optimal environmental surroundings during exercise
  8. Many of the physiological and morphological changes of pregnancy may persist four to six weeks postpartum.
  9. Pre-pregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on a woman's physical capability

Exercise following delivery

Gradual but regular exercise, three times a week, may start soon after delivery. Still, it is recommended that ballistic movement, extreme stretching, heavy weight lifting and weight resistant machines should be avoided for up to three months. It is recommended you seek advice from your doctor before commencing on an exercise program.


  1. HARTMAN, S. and BUNG, P (1999) Physical exercise during pregnancy - physiological considerations and recommendations. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 27 (3), p. 204-215
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1992) Women and Exercise. In: ACOG Technical Bulletin Number 173. Washington, DC: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2006) Exercise and pregnancy [WWW] Available from: [Accessed