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Dispelling the Myths of Pregnancy and Exercise

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

There has long been controversy about exercise in pregnancy. Contrary to common belief, you and your baby are NOT at risk if you are a regular exerciser and you wish to continue a workout routine throughout pregnancy.

There are many safe ways to workout throughout your entire pregnancy and beyond, providing some simple precautions are taken.

It is of course natural to have concerns and questions regarding what are safe forms and levels of exercise during pregnancy, many of which I hope I will address here, but first, I would like to dispel 5 common myths that regularly crop up regarding exercise in pregnancy:


Ultimately, the most common concern amongst pregnant women is whether exercising will induce a miscarriage. Exercise actually soothes many of the aches and annoyances of the first trimester, and continuing to exercise throughout the pregnancy can only add benefits to the mother and her baby.

But of course, you might notice you are low on energy, a little nauseous & tired. This combination can make exercise during the first trimester challenging.

TOP TIP FOR 1st Trimester Workouts: Keep workouts SHORT & SWEET. This will have you feeling your best, while helping gently nudge your energy just a little bit.


Adaptation is key here. There are many abdominal/core strengthening exercises that can be performed, and indeed should be performed during pregnancy, in order to prepare for the birth and the post natal period.

Abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) may occur to a greater degree in some mothers but this is something that with professional guidance, can be addressed and corrected or improved.


In the past, it was recommended that pregnant women keep their heart rate below 140 beats per minute, but those strict guidelines have since been eliminated. Experts now say you don’t need to stick to any specific heart rate limits while exercising during pregnancy, rather learn how to monitor your level of exertion. As preganacy progresses, the volume of blood in the mother's circulation increases by up to 50%, which in turn means the mothers heart rate (even at resting has to speed up in order to pump the blood efficiently to the organs and foetus. As a guide to the top level of exertion during pregnancy, the mother should sweat a little but still be able to hold a conversation.

Pushing yourself too hard can decrease blood flow to the uterus or raise your body temperature, which can lead to birth defects. Too much huffing and puffing can also lead to dehydration, which could put you at risk for premature birth. If you’re extremely thirsty, fatigued, have a headache, are dizzy or lightheaded, or have dark-colored pee, chances are you’re dehydrated. Remember that pregnant women typically need between 8 and 12 glasses of water per day, and even more if you’re exercising.


Many sports or activities may be safely adapted for pregnancy, however there are some activities that should be avoided to prevent complications or risk to the health and safety of mother and/or baby. These include:

High-impact exercises

Contact sports

Sudden movements

Exercises with a high risk of falling, such as gymnastics or trampolining

Sprinting or high-intensity exercises that raise the heart and breathing rates so that it is hard to hold a conversation

Sports that cause excessive sweating

Exercises that involve significant twisting of the body and torso, or bending backwards

Lying on the back for prolonged periods

Raising the feet above the head

Exercises that place jarring pressure on the pelvis and torso, such as horse riding

Exercises or environments that increase the risk of overheating

Standing for too long, which can cause blood to pool in the legs


There’s no need to get into extreme sports at this time – respect your current level of fitness and challenge yourself but don’t go overboard. By overboard, we mean no more than 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

A level of exercise and activity throughout pregnancy however is advised for most healthy individuals; even those who have not been especially active prior to pregnancy.

Walking, swimming, static biking or exercising on the cross trainer or even dance classes such as Zumba or Body Conditioning are all perfectly safe, and may be adapted safely for the pregnant participant. Combining these cardio exercises that are low impact and stable based, with kegel (pelvic floor) exercises, core strengthening and upper body strengthening are all advised, and will be hugely beneficial for the health of the mother during pregnancy and after the birth.

The Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology lists a host of benefits for mother and baby to be gained from exercise and staying active during pregnancy and after childbirth.

These include:

  • alleviated symptoms of morning sickness, or other queasiness,

  • regulated weight gain,

  • preparing you physically for carrying more pounds,

  • offset postural adaptations,

  • getting you in shape for childbirth

  • promoting good mood and relaxation/sleep

  • alleviated backache and reduce other pregnancy symptoms such as constipation, varicose veins and leg cramps

  • improved posture

  • improved postnatal recovery

  • enhanced psychological well-being ( e.g enhance self-image and confidence)

  • increased body awareness

  • maintained bone mineral density and

  • Preparation for labour and assistance in post natal recovery


Exercise during first trimester tends to be challenging. The volume of blood pumped out by the heart each minute increases by 5-6 weeks gestation and blood pressure is decreased. All of these changes, while unnoticeable on the outside can create feelings of dizziness, rapid heart rate and the feeling of not being able to take a deep breath.

Low-impact, moderate-intensity exercises that lead to light sweating and slight increases in heart rate are safe to perform

Tips for Exercising safely during the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy include:

  • Stay hydrated

  • Stay cool and wear loose-fitting clothing

  • Wear well-fitting, supportive, non-slip shoes

  • Recognize when to exercise less often or reduce the intensity of exercises

  • Set realistic goals and try to stick to them

  • Remember to breathe and be aware of the heart rate during workouts

  • It is important to stop and rest anytime if you feel tired or weak


The following points should be considered to protect the mother from overexerting and/or injuring herself during the 2nd & 3rd Trimesters

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Pay attention to the level of exertion. Rate your level of exertion using a Rate of Percieved Exertion chart. Alternatively, check that you are able to hold normal conversation while exercising.

  • Don’t push too hard, and slow down if you begin to feel too hot, dizzy or faint, or if you feel you are sweating excessively; stop.

  • Stick to low-impact exercise, which are less likely to raise body temperature, and keep your exercise sessions to approximately 45 minutes at a time.

  • Avoid overly vigorous activity with sudden changes of direction, especially in the third trimester, when most pregnant women have a decreased tolerance for weight-bearing exercise, and movements are generally slower in nature.

  • Include maintenance stretches for postural muscles, to balance the increasing lordotic curvature that will be developing

  • Use support (e.g. the back of a chair or a pole) for side bending and forward flexion exercises

  • Avoid single leg exercises, and ensure exercises are performed on a an even base


When exercising, if the core is not correctly engaged, injury and even worsening of existing abdominal separations or pelvic floor dysfunction can occur. This is why it is so important to learn the best pregnancy workouts to accommodate your changing body. It might seem a little strange to think about ‘training your abs in pregnancy, but it’s actually the best time to connect with your belly and really feel your best when exercising and throughout your day!

Some of the benefits to learning how to strengthen your core during pregnancy:

  1. Fewer aches + pains

  2. Better posture

  3. Minimize diastasis recti

  4. Better pelvic floor strength

  5. Decrease the likelihood of pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence

  6. Increased energy

  7. Easier delivery and recovery

  8. Achieving a toned and strengthened core {Hips to Shoulders}

  9. Improve body confidence!!

Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles are tightly slung between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone, and support the bowel, bladder, uterus (womb) and vagina. Childbirth can weaken these muscles and cause problems, such as incontinence, later in life.

To exercise them, you must first direct your attention to these muscles. To help you identify these muscles, they are the ones that you tighten to stop urinating. These exercises can be performed lying down, sitting or standing.

Try to relax your abdominal muscles. Don’t bear down or hold your breath. Gradually squeeze and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can. Release gently and slowly.

Then perform the exercises in these patterns:

  • Squeeze slowly and hold for between five and 10 seconds. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times.

  • Perform quick, short and hard squeezes. Repeat 10 times.

  • Squeeze, then clear your throat or cough lightly. Repeat three times. Aim for five or six sets each day.

Lower Abdominal Static Contraction

The lower abdominal muscles are located between your belly button and your pubic bone. To work these muscles gently, follow the guidelines below:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.

  • Keep your lower back flat.

  • Breathe out and draw your belly button back towards your spine. Your lower back shouldn’t flex or move.

  • Contract your abdominal muscles.

  • Slowly raise one foot at a time bringing the knees up to 90 degrees.

  • Place your hands on your knees, and ensuring the lower back remains in contact with the floor, gently push down with the hands into the knees, while drawing up with the knees into the hands

  • Hold the static contraction for 3-5 secs, then release and allow the legs to relax

  • Repeat 3 times

Pregnancy for most women will be the most physically demanding event in their lifetime. Put the work in pre pregnancy and get yourself fit, strong and mobile and your post natal life will be far easier and you’ll get back to full fitness far quicker.

Many POST NATAL physical benefits of exercising during pregnancy have also been identified by the Royal College Obstetrics & Gynaecology

These include;

A quicker recovery after birth

Speedier pelvic floor repair and toning,

Improved posture and stamina,

Increased energy and metabolic rate and

Easier weight loss after birth, leading to improved body image and self-confidence.

From the baby’s point of view, studies have also shown a number of benefits from mother’s exercise during pregnancy including a better tolerance of later pregnancy and labour.

If you need any help or would like some guidance in deciding on the best exercise programme for your pregnancy and beyond, then get in touch.

Exercises will always be safely adapted to suit your needs, and for how you feel as your pregnancy progresses.

I understand that you will experience changes in energy and motivation levels, and these will always be considered.

· Weight gain is necessary for the healthy development of the baby, and exercising throughout pregnancy will be beneficial when wanting to get back in shape after don't hesitate to get in touch.

Call Katie today on 07775 852791 or email me at

For more details on all the services offered by BST visit

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