Physical activity is important for everyone, including women who are pregnant. Staying active during pregnancy can help you feel better right away — and it can even make your labor shorter and recovery faster.
Getting active during pregnancy may also make it less likely you’ll have complications like:
- Gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy)
- Preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure and other problems)
- Postpartum depression
If you were already physically active before your pregnancy, it's healthy to keep it up. And if you weren’t active before your pregnancy, it’s not too late to start!
Before you start...
Talk to your doctor about getting active during your pregnancy. As long as there isn’t a medical reason for you to avoid physical activity during your pregnancy, you can do moderate-intensity physical activity.
Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
- If you weren't physically active before, start slowly — even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits, and you can build up to more over time
- Choose activities that make your heart beat faster — like walking fast, dancing, swimming, or raking leaves
- Be sure to drink extra water before, during, and after getting active
- Take a break if you get short of breath or feel uncomfortable
Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
- Do repetitions (lifts) with light weights instead of straining to lift heavier weights — you can also use bottles of water or cans of food as weights
- Make sure you're not holding your breath — breathe out as you lift the weight, and breathe in as you lower it
Avoid high-risk activities.
- Avoid doing any activities while lying on your back after the first trimester (12 weeks) — it causes problems with blood flow
- Stay away from activities that increase your risk of falling, like downhill skiing or horseback riding
- Avoid playing sports where you could get hit in the belly, like basketball or soccer
- Don't scuba dive while you're pregnant
Listen to your body.
- If an activity doesn’t feel right, try something else — you can find a way that works for you!
- Find ways to adapt your favorite physical activities if they don’t feel right during pregnancy
Content last updated November 4, 2021
This information on physical activity was adapted from materials from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the Office on Women’s Health, and National Institutes of Health Weight-control Information Network (WIN).
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines Review Team