Pregnancy Exercises: 11 Dos And Don’ts of Prenatal Workouts

As Executive Editor (Print) at WH, Victoria oversees the day-to-day running of Women’s Health print magazine and additional books. 

Not sure what pregnancy exercises you can and can’t do? We hear you, there can be a lot of confusion during the early days and there’s no getting around it, life changes when you fall pregnant.

Every woman is different, so it makes sense that her pregnancy experience will be, too – for me, I’ve managed to swerve sickness entirely yet my cup size all but doubled in the first six weeks – but virtually no-one manages to sail through the full nine months without issue. And a big one can be working out what pregnancy exercise looks like for you.

When it comes to keeping fit and healthy during pregnancy, guidance is different depending on where you look for information and advice rolled out even just a decade ago is outdated given how much more we now know about the female body. As an editor working at the UK’s biggest health and fitness media brand, even I was a bit confused about pregnancy workouts once I knew I was expecting, so I went to those in the know to get the big questions answered and below you’ll find all you need to know to stay fit during pregnancy.This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

DON’T give up exercise altogether

‘A lot of women are shocked when I suggest they ought to consider some form of exercise during pregnancy,’ says Dr Anita Mitra, NHS gynaecologist and author of The Gynae Geek. This is especially true of the first trimester, she adds, where expectant mothers fear miscarriage. ‘However, the majority of first-trimester miscarriage is associated with chromosomal abnormalities, which can’t be attributed to exercise. In a pregnancy with no complications, exercise doesn’t pose a risk.

Dr Mitra insists that exercise during pregnancy – whether that’s walking, Pilates, weight training or running – should be considered as training for the new demands put on your body. ‘Pregnancy and labour are the equivalent of a marathon, so it requires building up to,’ adds Dr Mitra. By ensuring your body is as fit and healthy as it can be, you’re also doing yourself a favour birth. ‘There isn’t any strong evidence to suggest that active mums recover quicker, but being active means it’ll be easier to do things like lifting the baby and lugging a pram around,’ says Dr Mitra.

DO meet the NHS guidelines for pregnant women

The focus is on staying active day to day, rather than strenuous exercise, and the NHS guidelines recommend trying to clock up 30 minutes of movement every day. Not meeting those guidelines suggests you’re leading a particularly sedentary lifestyle, which has proven not just to negatively impact your physical health, but your mental health too. Just walking is enough, but if you’re used to maintaining a certain level of fitness, there’s no reason not to stick with that – and if you can do it outdoors and get a fix of fresh air, all the better.


The NHS website is a great resource if you’re pregnant. The website states precisely which moves and exercises you should avoid when expecting. According to its article on exercise in pregnancy it says:

  • do not lie flat on your back for long periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
  • do not take part in contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash

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