Pregnancy, Exercise and Weight: All Your Questions Answered

pregnant exercise
Credit: lululemon athletica

Once that pregnancy test turns positive, the questions start popping up. How much can I work out? How much weight should I gain? Can I just sleep all day? Here to report on those burning questions is FBG contributor Kelly Turner. Spoiler: You can’t just sleep all day. 

There is no single more important time to take care of your health than when you are pregnant. Not only are you responsible for your own health, but also the health and development of your growing baby. Everything you do during pregnancy affects your new little peanut, from what you to eat, to the amount of weight you gain, to the amount of physical activity you get.

Pregnancy conjures up the mental image of sitting on the couch, eating pickles and ice cream and packing on the pounds, but in actuality there is a very specific amount of weight one should gain, and it tends to be less than most people think.

If you are:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5), you should gain 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9), you should gain 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) you should gain 15-25 pounds
  • Obese (BMI 30 or more) you should gain 11 to 20 pounds

Note that the heavier you are, the less weight you can safely gain. Most women are concerned with losing weight after the pregnancy, but in some rare cases, under medical supervision, when a women is very overweight, it is safe to actually lose weight during pregnancy.

The less weight you gain during pregnancy, the less you have to lose once you have the baby. For most, exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is the perfect way to keep in line with the above weight gain recommendations. Not only that, but exercise can make your pregnancy more comfortable by easing dreaded back pain and boosting sagging energy levels. More importantly, exercise can help reduce your risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure and postpartum depression. Exercise can even make giving birth easier by increasing your stamina and muscle strength.

Before you begin an exercise program, however, make sure you get the go ahead from your doctor. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, you will need to take precautions, especially if you have certain medical conditions, like a history of preterm labor, poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or placenta previa, a condition that can cause excessive bleeding.

While exercise has amazing benefits for moms-to-be, too much or too little can make a major impact. So what’s safe and what’s not? Your instincts may be to keep the baby as still as possible, but the womb is a safe place, so you have options. Yoga is considered one of the safest prenatal exercise programs because it prepares the muscles for the extremely physical act of labor. Walking is also a great option for pregnant beginners because it puts minimal stress on the joints. However, if you are in good shape, you can still handle more intense cardio activity, but high impact exercise should be avoided during the last trimester.

“The best form of exercise for pregnant women is the one that feels the most comfortable to them,” says Angela Bekkala, ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist and twin toddler mama from “Some women can run their whole pregnancy. Others love the pool for its non-impact on the joints. Every woman is different.”

For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended on most days of the week, but shorter, less frequent workouts can still give you necessary health benefits.

Resistance training is also safe, including weights, as long as you avoid going for any personal records. “Weights are safe for pregnant women to use,” advises Bekkala, “but keep them light. Make sure to use proper form to protect the back and do not hold your breath during the movements. Overhead lifting of weights is not recommended.” You should also avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back during the second and third trimester.

Pregnancy is not a time to slack off from your workout routine—it’s time to really buckle down and focus on your health and the health of your new baby. While you may not be able to work out the way you are used to, or at the intensity you are used to, rest assured, even 30 minutes of walking a day is one of the best things you can do for your little bundle of joy and the quickest way back into those pre-pregnancy jeans.

Did you worry about keeping up your workouts during pregnancy? —Kelly

Categories: Fit Pregnancy, FitMamas, Pregnancy, TipsTags: , ,

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  1. So nice to see some encouragement for mums to exercise during pregnancy! I’m only 4 months and have a small bump and I get so many filthy looks when I’m out running!
    I found a lot of support on this site though- really nice community of mums!