What's Safe During Pregnancy: A Guide to Exercise

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
November 13, 2023

For the text version of this infographic, read on:

How to Exercise Safely While Pregnant

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. That’s true when you’re pregnant too!

Staying active during pregnancy can help you:

In a survey of over 9,000 pregnant women, 47% said they stayed physically active right until they gave birth.

Always Check With Your Provider First

It’s important to know that exercise isn’t safe for everyone during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife about it as early as possible.

Risk factors that may prevent you from exercising include:

  • Being pregnant with twins or other multiples and having risk factors for preterm labor
  • Having a “short cervix,” according to an ultrasound
  • Preterm labor or having your water break during this pregnancy
  • Placenta previa or other placental issues that could lead to bleeding
  • Preeclampsia, or having high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Severe anemia
  • Certain heart and lung diseases

Once your provider clears you for exercise, you should be good to go!

How Much Exercise Should You Get?

Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise each week.

Moderate intensity means the exercise raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. You should be able to talk normally (but not sing) while you’re doing it. A brisk walk is a good example.

Plan to exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

If that sounds like too much at a time, try 10-minute sessions, 3 times a day.

Which Workouts Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Safe pregnancy exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Prenatal workout classes
  • Yoga
  • Pilates, when modified for pregnancy
  • Swimming and no-impact water workouts
  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Light weightlifting

What’s safe for you may partly depend on what you were doing before pregnancy. An avid runner can usually keep running during pregnancy, for example. (Until their belly gets too big to run comfortably).

For those who are new to exercise, it may be better to start with low-impact activities like yoga or walking. You can start with as little as 5 minutes a day! Then add 5 minutes every week until you’re exercising for 30 minutes at a time.

Which Workouts Are Not Safe During Pregnancy?

It’s important to avoid certain types of exercise during pregnancy to avoid injury and other issues. This includes:

Exercises with a high risk of falling

These include rock climbing, skiing, gymnastics, horseback riding, and ice skating.

Contact sports

Avoid any activity where you could get hit in the belly, like basketball, boxing, hockey, and soccer.

Activities where you could hit water with force

Diving, surfing, and water skiing can come with serious potential injuries.

Anything that may lead to decompression sickness

This includes scuba diving and skydiving (which come with other injury risks too!)

Hot exercises

Avoid exercising outside in hot weather or in heated rooms, like in hot yoga. These can cause dangerous overheating and dehydration.

Lying on your back after 20 weeks

From midpregnancy on, avoid exercises that require lying on the back, such as sit-ups. This position can pose risks.

High altitude moves

Pregnant people should avoid exercising at an altitude over 6,000 feet—unless they’re used to it. If you’re used to it, know the signs of altitude sickness. These include headache, fatigue, and nausea.

How to Stay Safe While Exercising

1. Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after your workout. Know the signs of dehydration: dizziness, racing heart, and infrequent, dark urine. Stop exercising and drink water if you notice any of them.

2. Avoid overheating. Exercise indoors where you can control the temperature. Wear loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothing to help you stay cool. And keep drinking that water!

3. Use support. Wear a supportive sports bra to stay comfortable. Consider using belly support while working out in late pregnancy.

4. Buddy up. Plan workouts with friends or family. It can be fun, and they can help watch out for your safety.

5. Be mindful of positioning. Once you’re past 20 weeks, avoid activities that can impact blood flow, like lying flat on your back or standing for long periods of time.

6. Work with experts. When in doubt, sign up for prenatal classes with an experienced instructor. Or work with a personal trainer who can modify a workout plan for your abilities and needs.

Signs You Should Stop

There are some signs of overdoing it during pregnancy. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and call your doctor or midwife.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise During Pregnancy. March 2022.

March of Dimes. Exercise During Pregnancy. September 2020.

Mayo Clinic. Exercise During Pregnancy. March 2021.

Walasik I., et al. (2020). Physical Activity Patterns among 9000 Pregnant Women in Poland: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.