Is it Safe to Exercise during Pregnancy?

Many women and men wonder if it is safe for a woman to exercise during pregnancy. For many years women were advised to rest during pregnancy for fear that strenuous activity might harm the developing fetus. However, current research shows that in normal, uncomplicated pregnancies exercise during pregnancy is actually beneficial to both the mother and the developing fetus and that the risks of not exercising during pregnancy can actually outweigh the potential risks of engaging in physical activity. In other words, in most cases, it is worse not to exercise than to exercise!

Researchers from The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists conducted a MEDLINE search and review of English-language research articles published from 1996-2002 and stated that;

‘Recent investigations, focusing on both aerobic and strength-conditioning exercise regimens in pregnancy, have shown no increase in early pregnancy loss, late pregnancy complications, abnormal fetal growth, or adverse neonatal outcomes, suggesting that previous recommendations [of reduced activity during pregnancy] have been overly conservative.

Women and their care providers should consider the risks of not participating in exercise activities during pregnancy, including loss of muscular and cardiovascular fitness, excessive maternal weight gain, higher risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension, development of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a higher incidence of physical complaints such as dyspnea or low back pain, and poor psychological adjustment to the physical changes of pregnancy.’ (Davies, Wolfe, Mottola, & MacKinnon, 2003).

In her article, State of the Evidence, Exercise in Pregnancy: a review of current evidence and guidelines (2011), Jenny Hassell cites the following benefits of exercise during pregnancy:

• Ameliorates common pregnancy complaints such as:
– backache, constipation, variscosities, back pain, insomnia and oedema
• Reduces risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
• Enhanced mental well-being, improved body image and self esteem
• Reduces obesity, short and long term
• Reduces birth complications
• Shorter labour
• Faster postnatal recovery
• Reduces depression

Other benefits include retention or improvement of muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness, maintenance of normal spinal posture and creation of conditions for relaxation (Genti, Vasilios, Georgios 2009).

Of course, pregnancy is complex and not all pregnancies are straightforward. While most women will benefit from an exercise regime in pregnancy, there are some instances where exercise may be contraindicated. It is recommended that women seek medical advice and approval prior to commencing or continuing any exercise program during pregnancy, especially if they have experienced any abnormal symptoms or complications. When choosing an exercise program it is important to exercise good judgment and avoid activities that might present increased risk for falls, injuries or trauma to the abdominal area. For a full list of recommendations, cautions and contraindications please consult the list of resources at the end of this article or speak with your midwife, physician, or obstetrician.

Saddletowne YMCA offers the following Pre and Post-Natal Fitness classes with a certified Pre/Post-Natal Fitness Specialist. For Pre-Natal classes please bring a completed ParMed-X for Pregnancy form (filled out by you and your midwife/physician). This form can be downloaded at:

Pre-Natal Fitness
Mondays 5:15-6:15PM

April 1-June 17
M$88 NM$132 (11 classes)
Barcode: 83485

Pre-Natal Aqua Fit
Wednesdays 6:00-7:00PM
April 3-June 19
M$96 NM$144
Barcode: 83620

Post-Natal – Mom & Baby Fitness (babies 1-12 months are welcome)
Thursdays 10:30-11:30AM

April 4-June 20
M$96 NM$144
Barcode: 83478

To register, call 403-237-2393 or visit Member Services. Registration is on-going.


Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) 2002. PARmed-X for PREGNANCY. [Accessed 22 March, 2013].

Davies, G.A.L.; Wolfe, L.A.; Mottola, M.F.; and MacKinnon, C. (2003). Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical Practice Guideline: Exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 28(3): 329-341. © 2003 Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

Genti, M., Vasilios, S. Georgios, M. (2009). Aerobics and Pregnancy. Studies in Physical Culture and Tourism. 16(4): 355-359.

Hassall, J. (2011). State of the Evidence, Exercise in Pregnancy: A review of current evidence and guidelines. Essentially MIDIRS 42(2:1): 39-42.