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Maintaining fitness when you're pregnant

Whether you're an exercise novice or a seasoned pro, an exercise program can provide beneficial strength and endurance during your pregnancy.

If you exercise regularly, you may wonder if it's safe to continue your routine once you become pregnant. Generally, you can. But you should be aware of these precautions:

  • Avoid lying flat on your back (the supine position) after the first trimester. This position tends to reduce the blood flow to your uterus during exercise.
  • Modify the intensity of your routine according to your maternal symptoms. Stop when you're fatigued and don't exercise until you’re exhausted. Moderation is a good rule of thumb.
  • Drink plenty of water. Hydration is especially important when you're exercising during pregnancy.
  • After delivery, ease back into your pre-pregnancy routine. Your body continues changing for four to six weeks after delivery, so don't rush it.

If you didn't exercise prior to pregnancy, you should consult your doctor first and begin with low-intensity, low-impact activities such as walking and swimming.

Pregnancy exercise classes

If you're looking for an organized and supportive approach, many fitness centers offer classes and customized programs for pregnant women.

For example, the St. Paul Jewish Community Center offers a seven-week course entitled "Changing Shapes – Pregnancy Fitness," which focuses on improving circulation, keeping muscle tone, adding strength and preventing swelling. The class integrates both aerobic and anaerobic (weightlifting) exercises into the routine.

The class includes a five-minute warm-up period followed by 10 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity exercise, usually stair-stepping. This is followed by a five-minute cool-down session.

Class instructor Mary Dirksen says whether you're in a group setting or exercising on your own, it's a good idea to keep your total aerobic workout under 30 minutes and limit the period of peak performance, when your heart rate is at its highest, to under 10 minutes.

After the aerobic session, the class moves on to strength training. Emphasis here is on free weights and resistance bands to build upper body strength, which will enhance your ability to shrug off the aches and pains that come with carrying your child for nine months. Squats and other lower body exercises will help build the leg and hip muscles important during delivery.


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Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Mary Dirksen, pregnancy fitness class instructor, St. Paul Jewish Community Center (www.stpauljcc.com)

First published: 09/05/2000
Last updated: 10/14/2007

Reviewed by: Michael Slama, MD, Allina Medical Clinic-Coon Rapids Women's Health