The Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant

Need motivation to move more during your pregnancy? Discover how regular exercising while pregnant pays off for you and your little one.

It can be tough to stick with a regular exercise program even when you aren’t carrying a tiny person inside of you. But research has shown that not only is staying active while pregnant safe, it can have some powerful benefits for both mom and baby.

Pregnancy Exercise Benefits for You

  • Gain less weight. Women who exercised two to three hours a week throughout their pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to gain excess weight than moms who didn’t, according to one study. Not only can gaining less weight make it easier to get back to your prebaby body after you give birth but it might also lower your risk of developing high blood sugar levels during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Out-of-control blood sugar levels can up your chances of having a larger-than-normal baby, which can make for a difficult birth.
  • Be better prepped for labor and delivery. Giving birth is no small task, but if you go into it with stronger muscles, better control of your breathing, and increased endurance, it’ll ease what’s sure to be one of your toughest workouts yet. Plus, you could have less of a chance of needing medical intervention during labor and a shorter hospital stay.
  • Get a mental health boost. Research has suggested that exercisers have a better body image, higher self-esteem, and more energy than inactive moms-to-be—and they may be less likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
  • Have fewer backaches. According to a recent study, nearly 70 percent of women experienced back pain while pregnant, but strengthening muscles in your back, glutes, and thighs can improve your posture and may relieve back pain, too.

Pregnancy Exercise Benefits for Your Baby

  • Your baby gets a major brain boost. Babies born to moms who exercised while pregnant have shown advanced neurodevelopment and have more active and mature brains.
  • He is less likely to be underweight. Research has suggested that regularly exercising while pregnant may prevent hypertension, which affects 6 percent to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States; high blood pressure reduces the flow of blood to the placenta, making it harder for your baby to get the oxygen and food he needs, which could lead to low birth weight.
  • His heart may be healthier. Babies of moms who exercise may have stronger and healthier hearts, according to recent research. Scientists found that women who were active while pregnant had babies with lower heart rates, both in utero and after birth, suggesting that a mom’s fitness was making her baby’s heart more fit, too.
  • Your baby has an easier arrival. Studies have shown that moms-to-be who exercise during pregnancy have babies who tend to show fewer signs of fetal distress during delivery.

Safe Ways to Get the Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant

It’s recommended that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

  • Once you’ve talked to your doctor about getting active, start slow. Five minutes of walking a day, while gradually building up to the recommended half-hour, is great for beginners.
  • When you’re ready, swimming, stationary biking, and even strength training with not-too-heavy weights are all safe activities you can do while pregnant.
  • If you exercised before pregnancy, you can likely continue working out at the same level, just check with your doctor beforehand.
  • Remember to listen to your body—if something doesn’t feel right, stop exercising and contact your doctor.