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Exercising during pregnancy

12-minute read

Key facts

  • Exercising during pregnancy can help prepare your body for birth.
  • During pregnancy, only do exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level.
  • You can do aerobic activities and strengthening exercises during pregnancy.
  • If you have health conditions or a complicated pregnancy, you should avoid exercising.
  • Talk to your doctor before exercising during pregnancy.

Can I exercise during pregnancy?

Physical activity during pregnancy is good for you. However, it is important to do exercises that are appropriate for you.

Exercising during pregnancy can:

It is best to talk to your doctor or midwife before you start exercising while pregnant. They can guide you to the best options that will work for you.

How often should I exercise while pregnant?

If you are pregnant, you can try to be active each day of the week.

The exercise you should do depends on:

  • how much exercise you did before your pregnancy
  • how far along you are in your pregnancy

You should aim to do strengthening exercises 2 times a week.

See below for a guide on how much aerobic exercise you can aim for while pregnant.

I was very active before pregnancy

Aim for about 15 to 30 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise most days.

OR

Aim for about 30 to 60 minutes of low to moderate aerobic exercise most days.

I was active before pregnancy

Aim for about 15 to 30 minutes of low to moderate aerobic exercise each day.

I was not active before pregnancy

Start with 15 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise at a time. You can gradually build to up to 30 minutes at a time.


If you weren't active before you got pregnant, don't suddenly take up intense exercise.

As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to exercise less. If in doubt, talk to your maternity team.

What is the difference between low and high intensity exercise?

You can tell the difference between exercise intensities through the ‘talk test’.

The more intense the exercise, the harder it will be to talk. You should be able to hold a conversation during light to moderate exercise.

What if I don’t have enough time to do all my exercise in one go?

You don’t have to do your daily exercises all at one time; you can break up your routine throughout the day.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Any physical activity is better than none.

What type of exercises should I do?

You should aim to do a combination of aerobic and strengthening exercises.

Aerobic exercises

While pregnant, some appropriate aerobic exercises include:

  • walking
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • a fitness classes

Strengthening exercises

Strengthening exercises include:

You can also try to fit the exercises below into your routine.

Push ups

You can do modified push ups that are safe during pregnancy. Follow the steps below.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  2. Make sure your knees are under your hips, your hands are under your shoulders, and your fingers are facing forward.
  3. Bending your elbows, lower your torso close to the floor.
  4. Keep your back straight.
  5. Repeat up to 10 times while breathing steadily.

Upper back strengthening exercise

To strengthen your upper back, follow these steps.

  1. Sit or stand, making sure your back is straight.
  2. Bend your arms, and life them until your elbows align with your shoulders.
  3. Press your elbows back — you should feel the muscles near your shoulder blades squeezing.
  4. Bend forward to feel your back muscles stretch.
  5. Relax, and repeat up to 5 times.

Stomach strengthening exercise

To strengthen your stomach (abdominal) muscles and ease backache, follow these steps.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your back straight, your knees under your hips, your hands under your shoulders and your fingers facing forward.
  3. Pull in your lower stomach muscles.
  4. Hold for 5, slow breaths, and then relax. Be sure to keep your back straight.
  5. Take a normal breath, and then repeat the exercise up to 10 times.

You can also do this exercise while standing or sitting, as long as your back is straight. It may help to flatten your back against a wall or the back of a chair.

Pelvic tilt exercise

This exercise also strengthens your spine and tummy muscles.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your back straight, your knees under your hips, your hands under your shoulders and your fingers facing forward.
  3. Pull in your lower stomach muscles and arch your back
  4. Hold for several seconds, then relax.
  5. Repeat up to 10 times.

You can also do this exercise while standing.

  1. Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall, with slightly bent knees.
  2. Pull your tummy button towards your spine, so that your back flattens against the wall.
  3. Hold this for a few seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat up to 10 times.

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor. These muscles come under great strain in pregnancy and childbirth.

The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles. They stretch like a supportive hammock from your pubic bone (in front) to the end of your backbone.

To strengthen your pelvic floor, follow the steps below.

  1. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
  2. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, while breathing normally.
  3. Relax and rest for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat up to 10 times, increasing how long you tighten your muscles for, aiming for 10 seconds.

You can aim to do this exercise 3 times a day.

What exercises I should avoid?

While most exercise should be fine during your pregnancy, there are a few things you should avoid.

Lying on your back

Lying flat on your back, particularly after 28 weeks, can be dangerous. This is because the weight of your baby bump presses on the big blood vessels. This can:

  • make you feel faint
  • reduce blood flow to your baby

Some sports

You should also avoid contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, such as:

  • football
  • hockey
  • judo
  • kickboxing
  • squash
  • tennis

To avoid joint discomfort, steer clear of exercise that:

  • is high-impact
  • is repetitive
  • has lots of twists and turns
  • involves high stepping or sudden stops
  • involves jumping or bouncing

Avoid any activity that risks you falling. This can injure you and your baby. Avoid:

  • cycling
  • downhill skiing
  • gymnastics
  • horse riding
  • ice hockey

Changes in pressure and altitude

Avoid activities that involve large changes in pressure, such as in scuba diving or sky diving.

You should also avoid exercise at more than 2,000m above sea level until you have acclimatised.

High temperatures

When exercising, ensure you don’t get too hot. Your body’s temperature is slightly higher when you are pregnant. Intensive exercise may cause your core temperature to rise to an unsafe level for your baby.

Are there any reasons why I shouldn’t exercise?

Your ability to exercise can be affected if your pregnancy is complicated, or if you are at increased risk of preterm labour. This might include if you have:

You should speak to your doctor or obstetrician before you start exercising if you have existing health conditions, such as:

Tips for exercising during pregnancy

Exercise tips when you're pregnant:

  • Always warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise in hot or humid weather — only exercise in cool, well-ventilated places
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Wear comfortable and suitable clothes — appropriate shoes, a supportive maternity bra and loose clothing.
  • If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified, knows that you're pregnant and knows how many weeks pregnant you are.
  • Try swimming or water-based exercise classes, as the water will support your increased weight.
  • Walking, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike are great moderate aerobic activities that place minimal stress on your joints.

When should I stop exercising?

Signs that you need to stop exercising and should see your doctor or midwife immediately include:

  • chest pain or unexplained shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • muscle weakness
  • calf pain or sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face
  • vaginal bleeding
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • pain in your abdomen (tummy), back or pelvic area

You should also stop exercising if you notice your baby is moving less.

Resources and Support

You can read more from the Department of Health Guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy.

For more information about exercising during pregnancy, speak to your:

You can read about a safe return to exercise after pregnancy here.

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023


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