Exercising During Pregnancy

I was so excited when Katie asked me to guest post for her while she’s busy organizing her life in MD- I grew up in Maryland and my family still lives there, so of course I think it’s a great place to move. :) Not only do Katie and I have Maryland in common, but we’re both dietitians and we’re both pregnant. Since I’ve gotten more than quite a few odd looks in the gym while pregnant, I thought I’d share a little bit about exercising during pregnancy. If you have questions you can find me at with a Side of Sneakers {or at tiny sneakers for baby stuff}. Thanks Katie for letting me take over your space for the day and good luck with getting situated!

“You don’t deserve to use those weights. You’re pregnant. Give them to me.”

Those were the words I heard in the weight room when my belly first started popping out.


I’ve gotten used to people saying ignorant things about pregnancy, but this one made my jaw drop and I just stared in stunned silence. Probably a good thing, because who knows what I would have said if I’d gotten my mouth to connect to my brain fast enough. After I regained my voice, finished my workout, and regaled the situation angrily to my husband three or four times, I finally realized that this lady wasn’t being rude, she was just ignorant. Ok, she was being rude too. But not everyone knows that it’s not only safe to exercise during pregnancy, it’s recommended!


I’ll be the first to admit exercising during pregnancy scared the snot out of me. I did fine through my first trimester, but when I started getting a little belly, I started getting scared. I got so used to hearing terrifying warnings that I started to believe them. By my third trimester, I kicked my fear to the curb and did what I knew was best for me and my baby. I got back to my regular sweat sessions and it was by far the best decision I’ve made in pregnancy.

{And just so you know how irrational I was being, I did my graduate capstone on exercise in pregnancy- I completely knew better.}

So whether you’re pregnant, or just see someone who’s pregnant working out, here’s the scoop on what’s safe, what’s not, and when to stop.


Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy

  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight & appropriate weight gain
  • Improves your fitness, strength, & endurance
  • Helps with better posture, which gets more difficult as your belly grows
  • Reduced complications during pregnancy & delivery
  • Fewer miscarriages
  • Ease of pregnancy discomforts & ease of labor
  • Mental well-being

The benefits are loud & clear. How about the risks?

  • Fetal distress
  • Hyperthermia
  • Miscarriage
  • Maternal injury

Now that you know the benefits and the risks, here’s who shouldn’t exercise {remember, always check with your doc first}.

Don’t exercise if you have:

  • Placenta previa
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Physical injury
  • Severe chronic disease or illness
  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain

And no matter what, stop exercising if:

  • You feel faint
  • You’re overheated
  • You start bleeding
  • Anything feels “wrong”

General Guidelines

  • Don’t go longer than 4 hours without eating before exercising
  • Don’t eat 1 hour before exercising {although this may vary person to person}
  • Eat some carbs while exercising if it lasts more than 30 minutes
  • Drink up! Adequate fluid intake is more important than ever.
  • Don’t get too hot- exercise indoors (in the AC!) if it’s warmer than 80 degrees outside
  • Don’t exercise lying on your back after 16 weeks
  • Be careful with stretching
  • Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week

{An old recommendation for prenatal exercise was to keep your heart rate below 140 bpm. Then it moved to 155 bpm. The current guideline is to exercise at a perceived rate of exhaustion {PRE} of 4-6, meaning it feels “somewhat hard” but not quite “very hard”.


So if you’re pregnant, don’t be scared to keep up a fitness routine- it’s good for both you and your growing baby. And for goodness sake, if you see a pregnant woman exercising, don’t demand she give you her exercise equipment just because she’s pregnant! Go give her a pat on the back instead.

Did you exercise while you were pregnant? What did people around you think about it?

Thank you so much for your wonderful guest post Heather! I can’t wait until you visit your family in Maryland and we can get our babies together!

In other news, our townhouse is really started to shape up and we are thankful that our neighborhood has trash pick-up twice a week! Soo this morning another load of trash was picked up and we are looking forward to recycling day again Monday — hello loads of cardboard boxes! I can’t wait to tell you more about our crazy week; I think I’ll have time for a proper recap post this weekend. This morning we are tackling the task of obtaining Maryland driver’s license and the rest of the day is devoted to getting as much done but also enjoying the townhouse a bit more!


  1. 1

    very useful info! not pregnant yet, but hope to be soon. i’m hoping to maintain a fit lifestyle throughout any pregnancies i’m blessed with.

    found you through fitfluential :)

  2. 2

    great post :)

  3. 3

    Thanks for the important info! I had a really rough first trimester, so I fell off the wagon with exercising, but now that I feel good again, I’m ready to get back into it.

  4. 4

    Great post, Heather! I exercised with both my pregnancies, more so with my first. And it made all the difference in how I felt and my recovery. Keep it up!

  5. 5

    I’m on my forth pregnancy and have exercised with all but the first one. I do, however, have pelvic pain and a weak SI joint. It hasn’t kept me from exercising but I do have to modify quite a bit. I can’t even do a yoga class that is for pregnancy (which makes me question what the instructors actually know) . I do a lot of planks, and push-ups and I work with free weights. I cannot stand on one foot or do a lunge or walk or run, this makes doing a workout for my legs hard to achieve. I can do a supported squat against a wall and will soon start swimming.

    I wanted to share my experience because when I’m not pregnant I’m very physically active with no limitations. Exercising during pregnancy is highly encouraged and because I’m fit I thought I would be able to do it with no problems. That’s unfortunately not the case and it took going too far and hurting myself in my second and third pregnancies to learn. I would just advise women to be aware of potential problems even if they’re very fit.

    • 6
      Katie Heddleston says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and you make great points! I was very fit going into pregnancy as well and was surprised when I has to curb running earlier than I anticipated. You definitely don’t know what to expect until you’re in the moment!

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