How Much Should You Exercise While Pregnant?

If you're pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or know someone who is either of those, you may wonder how much exercise is optimal during pregnancy. Luckily, there are some new guidelines for expectant mothers. And unlike their predecessors, these new guidelines have solid science behind them. 

Brock Armstrong
4-minute read
Episode #431
Photo of a pregnant woman stretching during her run

6 Recommendations for Pregnant Women

  1. All women without contraindication should be physically active throughout pregnancy.

  1. Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful health benefits and reductions in pregnancy complications.

  1. Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of three days per week; however, being active every day is encouraged.

  1. Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits. Adding yoga and/or gentle stretching may also be beneficial.

  1. Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Instruction on the proper technique is recommended to obtain optimal benefits.

  1. Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea, or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise to avoid the supine position.

During the interview, we also discussed some common myths or misconceptions around exercise and pregnancy.

The Misconceptions of Pregnancy Exercise

Some women avoid exercise due to concerns for:

  • Health of herself or her baby

  • The possibility of miscarriage

  • The chance of causing a pre-term birth

  • Dangers of having a low-weight baby

None of these concerns turned out to be founded in science during Dr. Davenport's review and preparation of the guidelines.

Also unfounded is the idea that pregnant women should not exercise over a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. This idea, which was included in the previous set of guidelines, turns out not to be true. Moderate intensity is recommended, but Dr. Davenport was quick to point out that vigorous intensity is not fully understood so it is neither recommended nor fully discouraged at this time.

Dr. Davenport’s Quick and Dirty (Hypothetical) Exercise Plan

I put Margie on the spot and had her concoct a Quick and Dirty pregnancy workout plan for a fictional friend. This is what she came up with:

Moderate intensity aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, swimming, cycling) 5 days per week.

Whole body resistance training (body weight or with equipment) 2 days per week which would include the following:

Upper body

  • 2 x 10 reps overhead press (press ups)
  • 2 x 10 reps dips
  • 2 x 10 reps upright row

Lower Body

  • 2 x 15 reps bodyweight squats
  • 2 x 10 reps (each leg) lunges
  • 2 x 15 reps calf raises

Always listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, change the exercise.

Dr. Davenport included that is may be important to use some support during the workout since it is not uncommon to feel off balance while pregnant. And always listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, change the exercise.

Safety Precautions

  • Avoid activities that have a high risk of falling or trauma to the abdomen.

  • Avoid scuba diving (due to increased pressure).

  • Avoid exercise at altitude (especially if you were born and live in a low altitude environment).

  • Avoid exercise in high heat.

If you want to find out more about Dr. Davenport and her work, here are some links:

For more pregnancy info, exercise tips, and to join the birthing conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy, twitter.com/getfitguy or BrockArmstrong.com.

Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show. 

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.