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Physical Activity and Pregnancy

Being physically active during pregnancy has many benefits for both mom and baby. Pregnancy should not stop you from being active. In fact, if you have not been active before, it's a great time to start. PARMed-X for Pregnancy can help you decide the type of activity that is right for you.


Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity can1:

  • Build your stamina for labour and birth.
  • Speed up your recovery after labour and birth.
  • Improve your mood and self-image.
  • Support healthy weight gain.
  • Help you relax and reduce stress.
  • Promote better sleep.
  • Increase your muscle tone, strength and endurance.
  • Increase your energy levels.
  • Improve your baby’s future health.

Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before changing any of your workout routines. There are very few reasons why a woman should not be active in pregnancy. Your healthcare provider and you should complete the PARmed-X for Pregnancy (PDF 307KB) before you take part in a prenatal fitness class or other exercise.

Once you are medically screened for physical activity, there are many fun choices for being in motion! Walking and swimming are two activities that are popular.

Common Questions about Physical Activity and Pregnancy


Build your stamina for labour and birth

Pregnant woman walking

What is the PARmed-X for Pregnancy?

The PARmed-X for Pregnancy (PDF 307KB) is a health screening tool which should be completed with your healthcare provider before participating in a prenatal fitness class or other physical activity program.2

Should I start to or become more active now that I am pregnant?

It's important to be physically active during your pregnancy. Being active has many benefits to your growing baby and makes you feel better too. It's important to start slowly and to speak to your healthcare provider before you begin any new activity.

If you have been regularly active (3 times per week for 30 minutes) before pregnancy, you can safely participate in physical activity during pregnancy.

If you have not been regularly active before pregnancy, the best time to start would be after your 12th week (first trimester) of pregnancy or during your second trimester when the risks and discomforts of pregnancy are at their lowest. However, walking is always encouraged, regardless of previous activity level, unless your health care provider has given you advice to limit activity.

How much exercise is enough?

The PARmed-X for Pregnancy is a great way of determining the amount of physical activity that is right for you. Use the checklist provided and talk to your healthcare provider about choosing a safe level of physical activity in your pregnancy. You can also discuss physical activity recommendations, as well as how to exercise safely, with a Motherisk Exercise Counsellor by calling the Motherisk Exercise in Pregnancy Helpline at 1-866-937-7678.

In your first trimester, fatigue and nausea makes it difficult to be active for many women. Because of this, many women find increasing their activity in the second trimester easier. Start slowly, and work up to being active four times a week.2

Are there special safety precautions because I’m pregnant?

There are a few safety considerations when you are pregnant.

  • Talk to your health care provider and review the PARMed-X for Pregnancy before beginning or changing your physical activity program.
  • Begin slowly.Start with aerobic activity 3 times per week for 15 minutes and work up to no more than 4 times per week of 30 minutes of aerobic activity.
  • Avoid activities that require sudden starts or stops, jumping, or rapid changes in direction.
  • Always warm up your muscles before activity and stretch after your activity.
  • Never exercise on an empty stomach, be sure to eat a light snack about 30–60 minutes before exercising.
  • Avoid warm and/or humid environments including hot tubs, hot yoga, saunas or whirlpools.
  • Never strain or hold your breath.
  • Drink extra water before and during exercise.
  • Avoid lying on your back after the fourth month of pregnancy.
  • Avoid activities which involve physical contact or risk of falling.2

Can I lift weights?

It's important to speak to your healthcare provider about all of your exercise routines. It's usually safe to lift weights as long as they are not too heavy. Using heavy weights can put too much stress on your body. It's suggested that after your fourth month of pregnancy activities should be modified so you're not lying on your back. Try side lying, sitting or standing.1 It's important to be aware of your breathing during all 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, then stop. If you have any of the following symptoms call your healthcare provider:1

  • Continuing contractions.
  • Bleeding from your vagina.
  • Increasing back pain, pubic pain, or pain in your abdomen.
  • Swelling of ankles, hands or face that happens suddenly.
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath.
  • Excessive tiredness.
  • Trouble walking.
  • Changes in your baby’s movement.
  • Swelling, pain, and redness in the calf of one leg.

How do I know when to stop?

Stop exercising and call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Excessive shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Painful uterine contractions (more than 6-8 per hour).
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Any “gush” of vaginal fluid.
  • Dizziness or faintness.2

How can I increase my physical activity?

  • If you were inactive before your pregnancy, start with mild activities like swimming.1
  • You should be able to carry on a conversation while being physically active. 1
  • Take breaks as needed.
  • Try the Move for Two DVD.

Move for Two: Physical Activity and Pregnancy DVD

In partnership with Dr. Michelle Mottola, Director of the Exercise and Pregnancy Lab at Western University, we have a DVD available that answers many of the questions women have about the safe and healthy ways to be active during pregnancy.

This DVD provides a workout that can be adapted and expanded based on a pregnant woman’s energy and experience levels. The DVD includes muscle conditioning as well as stretch & flexibility segments.

Residents of Middlesex-London can pick up a copy of the DVD at the Health Unit free of charge.  The DVD is available for $5.00 to residents of London-Middlesex if a copy is to be mailed out.  If you live outside London-Middlesex, the DVD is available for $5.00.

Each DVD case contains a copy of the PARmed-X for Pregnancy: Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination Form. Complete the form with a healthcare provider before to using this DVD.

Download the order form (PDF 164KB).

Date of creation: December 31, 2012
Last modified on: November 9, 2015


1Public Health Agency of Canada. (2011). The healthy pregnancy guide: Physical activity and pregnancy. Retrieved from
2Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2002). Physical activity and readiness medical examination for pregnancy. Retrieved from
3Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2012). Canadian physical activity guidelines: Guidelines for adults. Retrieved from