5 pregnancy-safe exercises recommended by experts

Young pregnant woman doing workout with rubber band at home in the morning.
Keeping up a fitness routine while pregnant can be beneficial both physically and mentally. (Getty Images)

Being pregnant is hard work, and exercising might be the last thing on your mind while you’re growing a whole human. But, it’s still important to maintain your fitness during this time, for you and your baby’s health.

In 2019, the UK Chief Medical Officer recommended that healthy pregnant women be regularly active throughout the week. In the UK, around one in five women attending antenatal care are obese, according to figures from the British Dietetic Association (BDA), and there are concerns that this will increase.

Maternal obesity can increase the risk of complications for both mother and baby. A high body mass index (BMI) - the calculation used to determine the healthy weight for your height - does not always mean you will experience complications.

However, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, being overweight or obese does increase the risk of complications like thrombosis, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, and mental health problems.

Julie Clabby, pre- and post-natal specialist and founder of Busylizzy, tells Yahoo UK that accumulating 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity across the week during pregnancy and incorporating strength-based activity on two days of the week can result in a range of physical and mental health benefits.

Cheerful young black pregnant lady future mom with big belly do exercises on fit ball, feels baby movements in living room interior. Expecting child, sports training, body and health care at home
Moderate-level exercises throughout pregnancy are recommended. (Getty Images)

"From the moment you are pregnant, you will start to recognise that there is an increased demand on the body as a direct result of your growing baby,” she advises pregnant mums.

"To allow your body to cope with these demands, it will very cleverly start to make changes to increase the body’s functional and physiological capacity and capability to sustain the pregnancy. Therefore, during pregnancy, there are even more reasons to keep moving - or to get moving, even if you haven’t already got a regular exercise routine."

Keeping up a fitness routine while pregnant can help in a number of ways, both during the pregnancy and after.

According to Sarah Campus, founder of holistic wellness platform LDN MUMS FITNESS, exercising while pregnant can help women "have a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy, a safer birth and help us recover faster".

The benefits of exercising during pregnancy include:

  • Increasing or maintaining strength

  • Strengthening the core and pelvic floor muscles

  • Improving aerobic function

  • Increasing or maintaining lean muscle mass

  • Promoting healthy pregnancy weight gain

  • Decreasing stress

  • Relieving back and pelvic girdle pain

  • Preventing constipation

  • Reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia

  • Combatting fatigue

  • Boosting mood

Explaining why exercise can help pregnant women fight fatigue - a common symptom during pregnancy - Clabby says: "Low-level tiredness plagues many women during the first trimester, then again late in the third trimester. While it seems contradictory, sometimes getting too much rest can actually make you feel worse.

"So while you should never push yourself too hard, a little exercise, such as a pregnancy yoga class can make a big difference in your energy level and get those endorphins flowing."

When it comes to preventing pre-eclampsia - a high blood pressure condition that usually affects women in the second half of pregnancy and can lead to serious complications if not monitored and treated - Clabby adds: "Blood pressure occasionally does go up during pregnancy, but too much and it can be a warning sign of preeclampsia. Staying active has been found to keep blood pressure from rising."

It’s extremely important not to push yourself too hard while exercising during pregnancy, and there are several safety considerations to take into account.

Campus recommends always warming up before exercising, and cooling down afterwards, and to avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather.

She adds that pregnant women should avoid contact exercises where you may risk falling down. To ensure your heart rate doesn’t get too high, you should "ensure you maintain conversation while exercising and keep an eye on heart rate to stay around 140 beats per minute (bpm)".


Beautiful pregnant woman doing exercises at home. Squats. Copy space�
Squats are a great exercise to do while pregnant. (Getty Images)

Squats are an excellent resistance exercise to maintain strength and range of motion in the hips, glutes, core, and pelvic floor muscles, Campus says. "When performed correctly, squats can help improve posture, and they have the potential to assist with the birthing process."


Campus says lunges can "help relieve ant pelvic girdle pain and can help when labour slows and the baby is near the mid-pelvis due to a narrow pelvic outlet".


This exercise can help strengthen the muscles in the upper body. "Press ups aid in the development of upper-body strength, which includes the arms, chest, and shoulders. These can be modified [as pregnancy progresses] - going onto knees, then incline against a sofa and eventually standing against a wall," Campus recommends.

Pelvic circles

Preparing for labor. Pregnant woman learning right breathing on yoga mat, panorama, side view
Pelvic circles are one of the exercises that can help with pregnancy pain. (Getty Images)

Clabby recommends pelvic circles to further help ease pelvic girdle pain. "To do this, get on all fours (table top position). Make sure your hips are above your knees, hands are directly under your shoulders and your weight is evenly distributed. Circle your tailbone four times clockwise nice and slowly. Then repeat back the other way. Repeat three times."

Reverse tricep dips

To keep your arms toned, Clabby also recommends reverse tricep dips, which don’t require any additional weights other than your body weight. "Sitting on a sturdy chair, place your palms on the front of the chair, either side of your hips. Lift so your bum is hovering off the chair, hands are under your shoulders. Bend your elbows back towards the back of the chair, keeping your arms close to your body until you reach around 90 degrees, and then push back up to your starting position. Repeat 10-12 times."

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