Exercise is crucial to wellbeing – it can elevate your mood, reduce your blood pressure, improve your metabolism and much more. When you’re pregnant, there are a few changes you might need to consider making to your exercise routine. 

We’ve summarized them below for you into three key points to remember. But before we do, just a quick safety note: it is always best to seek the advice of your GP or registered and qualified health professional (like your PhysiYoga Physiotherapist) prior to commencing a new exercise regime.

And if you’re looking for great exercise options for pregnancy – yes, Pilates and Yoga are fantastic! Find out more about our offerings here.

PhysiYoga Eva Emily Preg Yoga

Here are some warning signs – if you experience any of these during exercise, stop exercise and seek medical attention immediately (RANZCOG 2020):

  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, feeling faint or headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain, swelling or redness
  • Sudden swelling oof ankles, hands or face
  • Vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid loss (shiny, sometimes slight pinky tinge)
  • Decreased foetal movement
  • Uterine contractions or pain in the lower back, pelvic area or abdomen (potentially indicating pre-term labour)

Also be aware of the signs of preeclampsia, including sudden increase in swelling, headaches (quick increase in blood pressure), shortness of breath. Go immediately to the emergency room of your closest hospital.

So now that’s sorted, here’s what you need to know about exercise and pregnancy.

1. Pain with exercise shouldn’t just be accepted because you’re pregnant

Sometimes pregnancy may bring the onset of achey hips or a sore low back – but this shouldn’t be a given. Sometimes pregnancy can actually improve problems we’ve taken forgranted. The bottom line: don’t expect that just because you’re pregnant you should have to put up with pain, and exercise should never be painful. Our experience is that often there are some underlying issues in how you’re moving and pregnancy has just highlighted them as your body is under increased demand. See your physiotherapist to review your core muscles and movement patterns.

2. Exercise for wellness, not for “peak fitness”

Your body is now actively creating a new human – that’s a lot of work! Exercise should be aimed at supporting your health and wellbeing now. A great pregnancy regime includes:

  • Gentle stretching (especially if you have a sedentary job or lifestyle)
  • Gentle “core exercises” that include learning to effectively activate your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and learning to breathe well (this will come in handy during labour!). This is NOT a time for sit-ups, or strong abdominal exercises like deep backward bends: your abdominal muscles will be stretching to accommodate the baby and putting extra strain on them can cause the tissue between them (the linea alba) to stretch and tear. This can cause pain, problems with continence and delay your recovery.
  • Continue to build strength. Do it with great posture to avoid injury – this is essential as you’ll be doing a lot more bending, lifting, pushing and pulling when bubs is here. So learn to do it well and build strength in your good posture.
  • Exercise for heart health: hit the right, but safe, intensity (see below).

Advice on intensity:

The range you want to exercise in for Rate of perceived exertion – a range of 12-14 (somewhat hard) – see the graphic below. This is considered appropriate for most pregnant women. Can also use the ‘talk test’ – should be able to have a verbal conversation whilst exercising – so get your girlfriends together and meet for a walk and talk instead of (or prior to) that coffee. Something that you can continue when bubs has arrived!

(It would be remiss of me to not point out how Pilates and Yoga will tick all the boxes for exercise while pregnant).

3. Position is important

Initially for the first trimester, you can physically cope with doing pretty much anything that:

  1. You have been doing before
  2. Your energy levels allow you to keep doing
  3. Isn’t dangerous


Do stop any collision or contact sports. Think of it this way – consider stopping anything that might find you ending up in an emergency room, needing surgery or an X-ray due to the complications this can cause for bubs. This is why bike riding is often also discouraged.

From the 2nd Trimester (13 weeks), it’s best to stop laying on your tummy (obvious reasons). Later on in the 2nd trimester (about 16 weeks) it’s recommended to stop laying flat on your back. The reason is how the position of the baby starts to put pressure on your abdominal aorta and therefore impacts:

  1. Blood supply through the placenta to the baby
  2. Your blood pressure
  3. Your comfort: it will start to feel like you’ve got a footballer sitting on your guts and it just isn’t nice!

In summary, here’s our recommendations during pregnancy:

  • A goal of maintaining fitness, not reaching peak fitness
  • Moderate aerobic activity and strength exercise on most days
  • Should include pelvic floor exercises
  • Care of DRAM (Diastasis rectus abdominus) with abdominal exercise (check/educate) regarding doming
  • Avoid supine exercise from 16 weeks


Current guidelines for pregnant population (RANZCOG Exercise in Pregnancy Guidelines 2020):

  • Exercise on most (if not all) days of the week
  • Aim to accumulate 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week (75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise)
  • Muscle strengthening exercise should be performed at least 2 days per week.

Book online or call us today to book your perfect class or consult. Find out how we serve our pregnant clients.

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