Women's Health Week: Exercise in Pregnancy

Women's Health Week: Exercise in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting but nerve-wracking times in any woman’s life.

One of the most common reasons that women see us at Fitwise is to get information about safely exercising during pregnancy. Most women are aware that there are benefits of exercise during pregnancy but often they are concerned about potential risks to them or their unborn baby.

Historically women were often told to rest when they were pregnant and there are many ‘old wives tales’ about the risk of exercise. It is often difficult to get consistent advice about what type, intensity and duration of exercise that is considered safe and effective in this population.

In 2016 Sports Medicine Australia released a position statement to assist Physiotherapists and other health professionals to understand the benefits and risks of participation in exercise while pregnant.  From this position statement we know that current evidence promotes 30 minutes per day of aerobic (‘huff and puff’ or ‘cardio’) activity and 2-3 sessions per week of strengthening exercises in uncomplicated pregnancies.  The recommendations state that women should aim for a moderate intensity of training and include all large muscle groups for strength work.

The guidelines also recommend that women should specifically include pelvic floor exercises as part of their training (see our blog post: Looking After Your Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy).

The benefits of exercise in pregnancy for the mother include:

  • Improved muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved heart function and fitness
  • Decreased risk of some complications including pregnancy induced high blood pressure
  • Reduced back and pelvic pain
  • Decreased risk of excessive weight gain and post birth weight retention
  • Fewer delivery complications
  • Reduced risk of urinary incontinence
  • Improved sleep

The benefits of exercise in pregnancy for the unborn baby can also include:

  • Improved heart health
  • Improved brain health
  • Decreased risk of excess fat stores

Activities that are recommended and generally safe in uncomplicated pregnancies are:

  • Walking, cycling, swimming
  • Muscle strengthening exercises (body weight, resistance band, dumbbells)
  • Water-based exercises (hydrotherapy classes, water walking/running)
  • Pregnancy specific exercise classes (Pilates, yoga, circuit training)

Activities that are considered unsafe are:

  • Abdominal trauma or pressure (e.g. weightlifting)
  • Contact or collision sports (e.g. martial arts)
  • Hard projectile objects (e.g. hockey, cricket)
  • Falling (e.g. horse riding, skiing, rock climbing)
  • Extreme balance or coordination (e.g. water skiing, gymnastics)
  • High intensity training at altitudes >2000m

The good news is that Fitwise Physiotherapist's can assist you with all your exercise and pregnancy questions! We also run (small and large group) classes that are specifically aimed at pregnant and post-natal women so you know that you will be getting advice and guidance that is right for you.

Please note that these lists are not exhaustive and that some high or moderate risk pregnancies mean that a woman is not able to exercise to these guidelines. Please contact your health professional (Obstetrician, GP, midwife, or Physiotherapist) for detailed advice for your situation.

Lucy Glasson
Senior Physiotherapist
Consulting at our East Melbourne practice


For more information, or to book, click on "Make a Booking" at the top of the page or call our friendly team on (03) 9822 4999 (Armadale) or (03) 9486 0512 (East Melbourne).  Alternatively, you can email us at fitwise@fitwise.com.au if you have any questions.


Source: SMA position statement: Exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Haymen et al, 2016. (www.sma.org.au)

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