Fitness: How to exercise in pregnancy

Pregnancy Exercise Swimming

During pregnancy, keeping fit and in shape is important to expecting mums. We want to keep exercising, but with changing bodies it can be hard to know what’s allowed.

As a Personal Trainer who’s been through two pregnancies, Kimberley Cleminson understands the questions that mums-to-be have about exercise – what can and what can’t we do?

Kimberley: Our primary job during pregnancy is to keep our growing baby healthy, so exercise needs to be done in a safe way. The benefits from exercising are endless for pregnant women; improved circulation, reduced lower back pain, less weight gain, preparation for labour and a speedier postnatal recovery… To name a few.

This guide to keeping fit during pregnancy will give you the confidence to know that you’re doing it right.

Look at your current routine 

If you’ve been a regular gym bunny prior to getting pregnant then you can keep it up. Reassess your current workout plan to keep your heart rate at a safe level, and weights may need to be reduced. 

If you’re just starting an exercise programme, then best to keep exercise low impact. Things like power walking, swimming, pregnancy Pilates / yoga or aqua aerobics are ideal – this isn’t the time to consider improving your fitness.

Focus on well-being

Make sure your exercise during pregnancy is focused around feeling good about yourself, rather than your performance. Enjoy it – don’t sweat it!

Take care

Due to increased hormone levels, your joints are more relaxed, so keep stretching controlled and avoid rapid changes in direction or bouncing during exercises. After 20 weeks, don’t lie on your back for exercises

Pelvic floor

Include pelvic floor exercises as part of your daily routine – the NCT guide is good place to start, to learn how to do these correctly

Lift light

If you’re used to lifting weights in the gym, you can continue to do so, but keep the weights moderate. Avoid overhead work in the third trimester and ensure you breathe throughout

Keep your cool

It’s important to keep your body temperature in check, so stay away from vigorous activities and don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion

Perfect posture

Increased weight from your ever growing bump causes a forward shift in your centre of gravity and will cause your shoulders to slump forward. Stretch out the chest in the mornings and stand with soft knees (feet shoulder width apart) to improve this

Core strength

Keeping your core (belly and back) strong can help reduce back pain and make pushing during labour easier. Exercising the core needs expert training, so go to pregnancy Pilates or work with a personal trainer on this

Talk test

When exercising whilst pregnant you should aim to keep your heart rate at a safe level. I recommend the ‘talk test’. It’s simple, if you find yourself gasping for breath during an exercise, then you need to slow down and take things more easy

Keep on running

Running during pregnancy is a heavily debated topic. I love running and did it through both pregnancies until 5 months. If running is your normal form of exercise and you have no pregnancy complications, then you can continue. However, my advice is to stop and change to power walking once your bump gets big (as your balance can be effected). Running with a bump can be heavy going on your pelvic floor too, so ensure you work this every day if you’re a runner.

For more from Kimberley on how to start exercising again once the baby arrives, check out our postnatal guide to getting your body back.

Kimberley is the founder of Fitness Friend and Pramercise. She can be found on Pramercise UK