Pregnancy: exercise guidelines

Pregnancy: exercise guidelines

Exercise guidelines for uncomplicated pregnancies


Exercise on most days of the week (3-5 days) for 30-45 minutes (accumulated) at a moderate intensity (puffing and able to talk but not sing). Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, (it may be advisable to avoid breast stroke as it can trigger pelvic joint pain.) stationary cycling, water aerobics or Physiotherapy guided fitness/Pilates classes are suitable, even for new exercisers. Continue personal training only with an experienced and prenatal-qualified instructor who understands the changes that the pelvic floor and the abdominals and the pelvic joints undergo in pregnancy. Pick an activity you will enjoy and continue to do. During an activity….


Go at your own pace.

Try the Talk Test

You should be able to talk during exercise without undue effort.

Be aware of rating of perceived exertion

Exercise between 12-14 on the Borg Scale


7…very light


9…somewhat light


11…fairly light


13…somewhat hard




17…very hard


19…very, very hard



If any exercise is uncomfortable, or at any time you feel pain, STOP and ASK.


If you feel unwell, over heated, tired, dizzy, short of breath or other unusual symptoms, STOP and ASK.


If you are unsure of any exercise or do not understand instructions, STOP and ASK.


Let the instructor and your medical caregiver know of any change to your health; if unsure, STOP and ASK.


Avoid becoming uncomfortably overheated; drink plenty of water, wear loose layered clothing and exercise in a ventilated environment. Eat a small healthy snack around 1.5-2 hours prior to exercise.


Listen to your body!

Slow down if tired, hot, dizzy, or short of breath.

Do not exercise when unwell.

Avoid breath holding.

Avoid exercising in standing for prolonged times and on your back after 16-18 weeks.

Avoid high impact exercise such as running in order to look after your pelvic floor.

Avoid sit ups and heavy abdominal exercises, and avoid straining or heavy weights.


Rest by lying down when you feel tired especially in the third trimester. Try some relaxation techniques to give yourself time to enjoy your pregnancy now, and to help prepare you for labour and the challenges of motherhood.


Specific exercises such as daily pelvic floor and abdominal exercises are recommended throughout pregnancy to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction such as incontinence and to help support the back and pelvic joints. Seek out a women’s health Physiotherapist to tech you these exercises.




 Start slowly if you are new to exercise or have needed to stop in the first trimester, and build up slowly from there. It is safe to continue exercise until your baby is born unless there is a change to you or your baby’s health status. Continue to exercise at higher levels only if you are trained to do so and your healthcare provider is agreeable. In this case, slowdown in the third trimester to a moderate intensity. Most women find exercise in the last week or two of pregnancy is uncomfortable however gentle exercise may be continued if all is well. It is sensible to avoid exercise that involves risk of abdominal trauma (collisions, bumps or falls). Seek individualised advice from a women’s health Physiotherapist or specialised prenatal exercise instructor with qualifications.


Warning signs to consult instructor and /or terminate exercise




Excessive shortness of breath

Chest pain or palpitations


Painful contractions

Leakage of fluid from bagina

Vaginal bleeding

Excessive fatigue

Abdominal pain

Pelvic girdle or back pain

Reduced baby movements


Muscle weakness

Calf pain or swelling

Too hot

Feeling unwell



Last but not least, be proud of your desire to be fit, strong and healthy for you and your baby! Well done!