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Physical Activity During Pregnancy

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There was a time when pregnant women were encouraged to avoid physical activity. Fortunately, attitudes towards pregnancy have changed and medical experts now recommend regular physical activity as part of a healthy pregnancy (Government of Canada, 2007).

Talk to your health care provider before starting or continuing any physical activity routine.

Benefits of regular physical activity during pregnancy:

  • Improves posture.
  • Relieves back pain and muscle tension.
  • Helps prevent leg cramps, varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  • Helps make everyday activity less difficult.
  • Helps prevent pregnancy-related complictions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
  • Helps you cope with stress.
  • Helps you prepare mentally and physically for labour and delivery.
  • Helps you recover more quickly after baby is born.

Aerobic Activity Guidelines During Pregnancy

Any physical activity should always be preceded by a brief warm-up (10-15 minutes) and followed by a short cool-down (10-15 minutes).

  • Frequency – begin slowly and build to three or four times per week.
  • Intensity – you should be able to carry on a verbal conversation.
  • Time – attempt 15 minutes, even if it means reducing the intensity. Rest periods may be helpful.
  • Type – non weight-bearing or low-impact endurance activities such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling, aquatic exercises, low impact aerobics.

Strengthening Your Muscles

Help your body adjust to the many changes during pregnancy.

Guidelines for Strength Exercises:

  • May be performed 2 or 3 times per week.
  • Take one day of rest between sessions to allow your muscles to recover and get stronger.
  • Always slowly stretch the muscle groups you exercise.

Safety First!

Here are some tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable routine.

  • Avoid strenuous activity during the 1st trimester when risks and discomforts of pregnancy are highest.
  • Exercise regularly, but do not overexert yourself – take periodic rest intervals.
  • Avoid exercising on your back after your fourth month of pregnancy.
  • Avoid activities which involve physical contact or a risk of falling.
  • Always breathe normally during exercise – do not strain or hold your breath.

Reasons to stop physical activity and consult your health care provider:

  • Excessive shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Painful uterine contractions (more than 6 – 8 per hour).
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Any “gush” of fluid from vagina (suggesting premature rupture of the membranes).
  • Dizziness or fainting.

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