Simple exercises to stay active during pregnancy

Oct 2, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. ET

The general rule of thumb for fitness during pregnancy is this: If you were doing it pre-pregnancy, it's probably safe to keep doing it during pregnancy. That said, your typical 5-mile run may not be as appealing when you're carrying 30 pounds of baby weight in your belly. Go ahead and give yourself permission to stick to a few simple exercises for a fit and healthy pregnancy.

Pregnant woman working out with dumbells

Popular opinion regarding exercise during pregnancy has changed drastically over the last 30 years. Pregnancy was once viewed as a "delicate state," and pregnant women were told to avoid physical exertion to keep their babies safe.

Luckily, science has prevailed, and the evidence is clear: The more fit and healthy a mom is before and during pregnancy, the easier her labor will be, the healthier the baby will be and the faster it will be for the mom to get her pre-baby body back.

While you should always talk to your doctor about your exercise program, and you should avoid taking up new or more strenuous activities, there's no reason to view pregnancy as a disability. Go ahead, get out there and stay fit — your body and your baby will thank you!


Seriously, what could be more simple than walking? Pregnant fitness blogger Karina P. of C'est La Vie can't say enough great things about her fitness walking routine.

"Walking for at least 40 minutes every day is wonderful," she says. "It helps with circulation, and it does wonders to relieve anxious legs at night!"

Even if you weren't very active pre-pregnancy, this is one form of exercise most doctors agree is safe to take up during pregnancy — and the sooner, the better. As your pregnancy progresses and your baby bump grows, walking will become more difficult. If you start early and acclimate yourself to the exercise, you'll be able to comfortably continue (with your doctor's approval) up until your delivery date.


Like walking, yoga is a popular and safe form of exercise for pregnant women. Yoga improves flexibility, circulation and mind-body awareness, all of which carry benefits during pregnancy, labor and motherhood itself. Not all yoga poses are safe for pregnant women, especially during the second and third trimesters, so it's important to talk to your yoga instructor about modifications. If you're new to yoga, consider joining a prenatal yoga class to ease your way into the activity while also meeting other pregnant moms.

Try it: Cat-cow pose

  • Start on your hands and knees on the floor, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.
  • Inhale and arch your back, tilting your hips up toward the ceiling while bringing your head forward so you're looking straight ahead.
  • Exhale and release your head and hips, curving your spine toward the ceiling.

Water exercise

Pregnancy can be extremely uncomfortable. You're carrying around extra weight that's awkwardly positioned in front of your body, and the baby is sitting on your bladder. Your feet swell, your back aches and all you want is to feel weightless.

Luckily, you can. Head to the pool for a swim or join a water aerobics class. If you haven't been active pre-pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor and an instructor about monitoring your exertion while exercising, but most women can comfortably take up swimming during pregnancy without worry.

Try it: Water walking

  • Strap a flotation belt around your belly (most pools have these on site) and head to the deep end of the pool.
  • Swing your arms and legs as though you were walking on land, but keep your legs straight instead of bending them at the knees.
  • Continue the movement, "walking" back and forth across the pool.

Strength training circuit

Strength training during pregnancy is a bit controversial, as evidenced by the uproar regarding pregnant CrossFitters, but as long as you have the go-ahead from your doctor, there's no reason to avoid the weight room. Personal trainer and mom of four Tracey English offers some words of advice.

"If you've been regularly exercising, keep it up! Simply listen to your body and make modifications whenever necessary," she says. "If you're new, here are some things to keep in mind: Don't work out to exhaustion, take frequent breaks when needed, avoid extreme temperatures, and as pregnancy progresses, avoid heavy weight-bearing exercises such as weighted squats and lunges."

The thing to remember here is that you should use strength training during pregnancy as a way to maintain what you have, rather than strive to see significant gains. If you were doing squats with 50 pounds pre-pregnancy, reduce the amount of weight as your pregnancy progresses instead of constantly trying to lift more.

Try it: Circuit

English offers the following circuit as a good option that can be continued throughout pregnancy, if you feel up to it:

  1. Pushups
  2. Triceps dips
  3. Biceps curls (seated, if desired)
  4. Walking lunges or alternating stationary lunges
  5. Squats

Perform 10 repetitions of each and repeat the circuit three times.

As English points out, "I taught step and BodyPump up until two days before babies one through four, and I had no issues. There's a misconception that exercising during pregnancy can cause complications. In reality, it keeps moms-to-be happier and more relaxed, and it can increase stamina and endurance, both of which are needed for labor and motherhood."

So get busy, Mama!


How have you stayed active during pregnancy? Tell us in the comments section below.

More on healthy pregnancy

Exercising while pregnant
How fitness affects your fertility
Healthy pregnancy diet: The extra 300 calories