Exercise in pregnancy

Pregnant women come from different exercise backgrounds, varying from sedentary life-style, engagement in recreational sports to fitness enthusiasts or competitive athletes. Hence, the intensity of exercise during pregnancy should be individualised. In general, strenuous exercise, contact sports (such as basketball) or activities that carry a high probability of a fall (such as gymnastics or skiiing) should be avoided.

Guidelines for safe and effective prenatal exercise:

1. Regular exercise (around three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity;

2. Women who have led sedentary life-styles should begin with physical activity of very low intensity and advance activity very gradually;

3. Be careful in very hot humid weather. Maternal temperature should not exceed 38C. Clothing worn should allow for adequate ventilation. Strenuous exercise, if undertaken, should not exceed 15-20 minutes;

4. Maintain adequate fluid intake during and after exercise to prevent dehydration;

5. Do not exercise with a full or empty stomach. Have a snack around an hour before exercise would be a good idea;  

6. Pregnant women should never exercise to exhaustion. The maternal heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute;

7. Exercises which involve Valsalva manoeuvre (such as weight lifting) should be avoided;

8. Avoid performing exercise lying completely supine from 4 months onward. Rapid change of posture (such as from sitting to standing posture) should also be avoided;

9. A good posture is important to prevent unnecessary strains on the low back and the hip joints to avoid injury;

10. Stop exercising and see the doctor if developing pain, bleeding, faintness or feeling unwell after exercise

Contraindications to exercise:


This article is contributed by Dr. T.N. Danny Leung
Updated on 25.09.2020