How should I start to or become more active now that I am pregnant?
It's important to be physically active throughout your pregnancy, unless your health care provider has given you advice to limit activity. Being active has many benefits to you and your growing baby.
If you have not been regularly active before pregnancy, start slowly and increase your activity until you meet the Guideline recommendations. Walking and swimming are two activities that are popular.
If you have been regularly active before pregnancy, you can safely continue physical activity during pregnancy.
How much exercise is enough?
The PARmed-X for Pregnancy is a great tool to identify the amount of physical activity that is right for you. Use the checklist provided to help choose a safe level of physical activity.
There may be times during your pregnancy that it's difficult to be active because of fatigue &/or discomforts. You will need to modify your physical activity during this time. Start slowly and work up to the recommended amount of physical activity when you are able.
Every active minute counts! Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity over at least 3 days each week. Even better, be active every day.
It’s also important to reduce your sedentary time. Watch Dr. Mike Evans video for ideas about how to make your day harder. Learn more about the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.
Can I lift weights?
Yes, it’s helpful to add resistance training activities to a variety of aerobic activity. It's usually safe to lift weights if they are not too heavy. Using heavy weights can put too much stress on your body. Instead, use a higher repetition range (10 reps or more per set) with lower weights. This will lower joint-related stress and reduce the risk of injury.
Activities should be modified so you're not lying on your back14. Try side lying, sitting or standing. It's important to be aware that you are breathing during all exercise, exhale on exertion and inhale on relaxation15.
Are there special safety precautions because I’m pregnant?
There are a few safety considerations when you are pregnant. Some sports carry significant risk and shouldn’t be continued during pregnancy. You should be able to carry on a conversation while being physically active. Take breaks as needed. Review the PARMed-X for Pregnancy before beginning or changing your physical activity program and speak with your healthcare provider if you have any contraindications (reasons not to be physically active) identified in the Guideline.
- Do not scuba-dive during pregnancy, as your baby is not protected from decompression sickness and gas embolism.
- Avoid activities which involve physical contact or danger of falling, which may increase the risk of injury to your baby. These activities include, but are not limited to, horseback riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics or Olympic lifts. Avoid hiking where you might fall.
- Avoid non-stationary cycling as this activity may carry a higher risk of falling as pregnancy progresses because of traffic or unsteady surfaces. Brisk walking, stationary cycling, swimming or aquafit are good alternatives.
- Avoid vigorous physical activity in excessive heat, especially with high humidity, to avoid dehydration (e.g., hot yoga).
- Always warm up your muscles before activity and gently stretch after your activity.
- Never exercise on an empty stomach, be sure to eat a light snack about 30–60 minutes before exercising.
- Never strain or hold your breath.
- Stay hydrated. Sip water before, during and after exercise.
- Avoid lying on your back during exercise.
How can I tell if I’m over doing it?
Listen to what your body tells you. If you are feeling like you need to stop exercising, then stop.
If you have any of the following symptoms call your healthcare provider:
- Painful uterine contractions (more than 6-8 per hour).
- Bleeding from your vagina.
- Any “gush” of vaginal fluid.
- Increasing back pain, pubic pain, or pain in your abdomen.
- Swelling of ankles, hands or face that happens suddenly.
- Dizziness, faintness or unusual shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Changes in your baby’s movement.
- Swelling, pain, and redness in the calf of one leg.
Thank you to Dr. Michelle Mottola, Director of the Exercise and Pregnancy Lab at Western University for her content expertise in writing this webpage.