The best exercise to do in pregnancy

So last week my friend Katie from Imperfectly Pure wrote a great blog on nutrition in pregnancy, if you missed it, you can read it here (PART 1 – Nutrition). This week she has done a great piece on exercise – how much, what to do and how to do it.

Katie is a personal trainer, a wellness coach amongst many other things. Do check out her own site for great tips on eating natural and top exercise tips. So over to Katie…

Part 2 – Exercise

So, you’ve now nailed your Nutrition, WELL DONE! Now let’s
talk exercise. There is so much advice out there on what is best, and lots of
it is conflicting. Good news for you is that I have done a lot of research,
with reputable sources, and the advice that I give, and that I will follow
myself is to remain as active as you can. Your pregnancy is not the time to
start any wild training routines, or reach for any PB’s – it is a time to
nourish your body, mind and spirit. For me that means staying active, and
balancing it with a lot of rest. Make it as easy as possible for life to grow
inside you by strengthening your body, your mind, and also relaxing!! When the
new arrival comes there may not be so much time to put your feet up 😉

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy describes the aims of
exercise in pregnancy as:

“To maintain or moderately
improve the level of fitness. After the baby is born the aim is to regain the
former level of fitness, or improve on this if previously sedentary/ unfit.”

If you are active – GOOD FOR YOU! I advocate activity, but
you will need to learn to listen to your body as well. Studies show that women who continue endurance
exercise at or near pre-pregnancy levels gain less weight than those who stop
exercising before the 28th week. Babies of exercising mothers are
healthier at birth and better manage the stress of delivery. They have a lower
heart rate and sleep through the night sooner than babies of more sedentary

In support of guidelines from the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 3 the Royal

College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests

  • all
    women should be encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning
    exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancy
  • reasonable
    goals of aerobic conditioning in pregnancy should be to maintain a good fitness
    level throughout pregnancy without trying to reach peak fitness level or train
    for athletic competition
  • choose
    activities that will minimise the risk of loss of balance and foetal trauma
  • women
    should be advised that adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes are not increased
    for exercising women
  • initiation
    of pelvic floor exercises in the immediate postpartum period may reduce the
    risk of future urinary incontinence


Exercising during pregnancy will help
you to:

  • Keep your heart, lungs and muscles as healthy as
  • Keep your weight within a healthy range
  • Improve your posture, balance and coordination
  • Improve circulation
  • Increase your strength and stamina
  • Feel better in your body AND mind
  • Be prepared for labour and delivery
  • Do your best for your baby as it develops
  • Reduce minor ailments in pregnancy
  • Become fitter to help you recover more quickly
    after the birth

If you are very inactive now, try incorporating some
movement every day. Walking and swimming are both excellent things that are
low-impact but benefit the whole body gently.

If you are active now: GOOD NEWS! Many activities are safe
to continue with, just be sure to monitor your intensity level. A few

  • it is safe to break a sweat when exercising
  • Avoid abdominal crunches
  • Avoid laying on your back past the first
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated when exercising
  • Try to balance every hour of exercise with an
    hour of rest
  • Avoid using your heart rate to monitor your
    exercise program. During pregnancy, your resting heart rate increases and your
    maximal heat rate decreases so using a target heart rate to guide the intensity
    of your workout is not recommended. Research shows an easier and safe way to go
    is to monitor your exertion level using Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion
    (RPE) Scale (see Table).
  • Throughout pregnancy, exercising at moderate
    intensity is considered safe. On the Borg RPE Scale, moderate intensity is a
    rating of 12 to 14 — a level that feels somewhat hard (that is, you can still
    talk while exercising without feeling exceedingly short of breath).

Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

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Source: Borg, 1998

Some of the exercises that are safe to continue with include:

  • 2.YOGA (but not hot in your first trimester)
    a little bit more about now because I believe it is particularly important).

Benefits of Strength
Training During Pregnancy

During your pregnancy some of your muscles will naturally

back of the thigh



back extensors




It is really important
to focus on your Spine when
strength-training during pregnancy, in particular focusing on exercises that
require you to support and stabilise
your spine it is neutral position. These types of exercises are also known as
Core Conditioning or Functional Exercises and they train the torso and limbs to
work together and improve body mechanics, making
you fit for real life. Maintaining a Neutral Spine position will support
your body a great deal during pregnancy, and beyond, by:

and protecting the spine

the deep core muscles

good posture

lessens muscular imbalances

the load evenly through vertebral discs, helping to avoid back pain

Resistance training exercises that require Neutral
Spine stabilisation simultaneously build core control together with strong,
powerful limbs.
Some exercises that combine resistance training with functional conditioning:

and lunges, using either your body weight or free weights.

upper- and lower-body cable-pull exercises performed either standing or seated.

heel rises, employing either your body-weight or free-weights.

or side-lying leg extensions, using your body weight, resistance bands or
tubing, ankle weights, a weighted bar, or similar devices.

side, and back flies, performed with free weights, resistance bands or tubing.

rows, done with resistance bands, tubing, or cables.

of the seated Pilates reformer exercises.


Focus on Endurance, this means keeping weights low and
the number of reps high (10-12 reps,2 – 3 sets). This will also enable you to
control your breath more, so aim for deep slow inhalations and exhalations, and
slow, controlled repetition.

Try this circuit – it should take you around 45

1) Warm Up for 5 minutes either on a
cross-trainer, or by performing body weight squats x 30, press ups x 10,
continuously for 5 minutes


a.Split leg squats with a barbell on
shoulders x 12 each side

b.Press ups x 10

c.Goblet Squat with a weight held at
chest x 12

d.Renegade Rows with dumbbells x 12

e.Repeat circuit twice – rest 60
seconds between the circuits and keep a note of your ability to talk


a.Reverse lunge to bicep curl with dumbbells
x 12 each side

b.Standing heel raises with dumbbells x
12 each side

c.Renegade Rows with dumbbells x 12

d.Standing Row, Side Raise, Frontal
Raise with dumbbells x 12

e.Repeat the circuit twice – rest 60
seconds between the circuits and keep a track on your ability to talk

4) Metabolic
conditioning – you need a medicine ball

a.Slam the ball 10 times and then do
double legged jumps, front and back,x

b.Slam the ball 8 times and then do
double legged jumps, front and back, x 8

c.Continue down to 2 slams and jumps

5) Abdominal/Core

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a.Bird Dog Pose (above) x 10 each side

b.Side Plank x 30 seconds x 2

c.Full plank x 30 seconds x 2

Make sure you
finish up with a cool down and time to stretch and relax, I often like to end
my exercise with some time to close my eyes and be really still, just 2-3
minutes really does the trick!

Overall, when it
comes to exercise, listen to your body, monitor your intensity, stay well
hydrated and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right for you. You are the
very best judge of what is the very best for you, and your baby.

Something else that
I always recommend, even more so for women who are pregnant, is to strengthen
the mind through Meditation. I have written two blog posts recently about how
to begin mastering the mind or Mindful Walking.

I hope this has
been useful for you, if you have any questions I would love to hear from you, with lots of
love and a happy, healthy pregnancy. Please email me if you have any questions about nutrition or exercise.


[email protected]

Another great post from Katie, to hear more wellness posts in general Katie’s Facebook page for lots of tips and motivation.


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