5 things to know about exercise and pregnancy


Last month, the American Medical Association published a Viewpoint in it’s Journal explaining recommendations for exercise during pregnancy. Here are some key points from the statement. Always check in with your health care provider for personalized recommendations for your pregnancy. 

1. It is safe to exercise throughout your entire pregnancy– The JAMA Viewpoint states that moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise is not associated with an increased risk of preterm birth or low birth weight in women with uncomplicated, singleton pregnancies. The Viewpoint also clarifies that it is safe to start exercising for the first time while pregnant, even if you have been previously sedentary, and that exercise is safe for pregnant women with health issues including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or overweight/obesity. Research has found that it is safe to exercise right up to the end of your pregnancy.

  1. Exercise will help you prevent excess weight gain during your pregnancy– Gaining too much weight while you’re pregnant is common no matter what your pre-pregnancy weight was. Research shows that women who exercise during their pregnancy are less likely to gain more weight than is recommended. Not exceeding weight gain recommendations will help you maintain a healthy weight after your pregnancy.
Pre-Pregnancy BMI Recommended Weight Gain

During Pregnancy*

<18.5 28-40 pounds
18.5-24.9 25-35 pounds
25.0-29.9 15-25 pounds
>30.0 11-20 pounds

*Singleton. Recommendations vary for women carrying twins, etc.

  1. Exercise lowers health risks for your and your baby– Regular exercise during pregnancy lowers risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, pain in the back and pelvic girdle, and urinary incontinence. Exercise also lowers risk of newborn macrosomia (large birth weight) which is linked to childhood obesity.
  1. During pregnancy you should exercise at moderate-intensity– Research has found that moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise is both safe and powerfully beneficial during pregnancy, but what does moderate-intensity mean? Moderate-intensity means that you keep your heart rate between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.  If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can use the “talk-test” as an approximate for moderate intensity. If you can’t comfortably talk, you are working too hard. If you can sing, you may be at low-intensity and can pick up the pace a bit. Your goal is to be able to talk but not sing. Brisk walking, aerobic dance, stationary biking, swimming or water aerobics are examples of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Avoid exercise that takes you above moderate-intensity heart rate, increases your risk for dehydration, or raises your body temperature, like long-distance running, hot yoga, or lifting heavy weights.
  1. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week– This breaks down to at least 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week. Try not to let two days in a row pass without engaging in aerobic exercise.  Studies have found it is safe to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for up to 90 minutes at a time while pregnant, but do make sure to keep yourself hydrated while you work out. It is also recommended to perform moderate-intensity resistance training two to three times per week.

Choose an exercise you enjoy and get started today. You and your baby will reap the benefits for years to come!

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN

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