Physical activity has important health benefits during and after pregnancy. But lots of things can get in the way—like busy schedules and conflicting advice about what’s safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moderate-intensity physical activity is safe for you during pregnancy if you are generally healthy. It can help reduce your risk of excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes and keep your heart and lungs healthy.
During the postpartum period (first year after delivery), physical activity can decrease symptoms of postpartum depression. When combined with caloric restrictions, it can also help you with weight loss after delivery.
How much activity do you need?
CDC recommends pregnant and postpartum women follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. Remember, some physical activity is better than none—so, do what you can. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Brisk walking
- Some forms of yoga
- Modified pilates
- Water aerobics
- Bike riding
What activities are okay?
Pregnancy comes with many physical and emotional changes. Give yourself room to explore and don’t worry if activities you used to do aren’t quite as easy or don’t feel the same. Start slow. Take time to warm up and cool down and be sure to drink lots of water.
Stop if you feel any discomfort or pain. Always talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about how your body is responding to physical activity.
Remember, all kinds of physical movement count so find what works for you and if
- Low-impact aerobics
- Strength training
- Ellipticals, stair climbers, treadmills, rowing, machines
- Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing
- Tai Chi
- Pelvic floor exercises
What activities should be avoided?
After the first trimester, try to avoid activities that require lying flat on your back. Instead, find ways to adapt your favorite physical activities—like propping yourself up with a
Be extra cautious if you are doing exercises where you could lose your balance. Avoid contact sports where there is a risk of being hit—like judo, kickboxing, or sports involving balls.
Don’t over-exercise. This can make you overheat and when pregnant that’s not good for baby. Aim to work hard enough so that you breathe more deeply and your heart beats faster, but not so hard that you can’t pass a talk test. You should be able to hold a conversation without gasping for breath.
Be mindful of activity in high altitudes or hot, humid climates—especially if you are not used to them.
What are the benefits?
We often hear about the long-term benefits of being active but physical activity can also help you feel better right away. Even if you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, adding a little movement to your daily routine can have significant benefits.
Boost your mood
Sharpen your focus
Reduce your stress
Improve your sleep
For pregnant women, being active can even make labor shorter and recovery faster. Plus, it can make it less likely you’ll have complications like:
- Gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy)
- Preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure and other problems)
Being active during after pregnancy can also:
- Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- Improve posture
- Prevent excess weight gain
- Promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
- Help reduce postpartum depression
What’s your move?
The Move Your Way® campaign can help pregnant and postpartum women (and their support teams) understand the amount and types of physical activity they need during and after pregnancy. The Move Your Way® materials include:
- Fact Sheets and posters
- An interactive tool
- Stories about physical activity and healthy eating
- Sample social media messages, graphics, and GIFs
These materials can be displayed or distributed in health care settings, recreation facilities, workplaces, community centers, and more.
Download the fact sheets below for information about:
- The benefits of regular physical activity during and after pregnancy
- Tips to help people choose safe activities
- Ideas on how to find time to get active
- Questions for healthcare providers
Explore More from Move Your Way®
Move Your Way® South Dakota Playbook
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Move Your Way® for Parents
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