Exercise and Fitness



What is the connection between physical activity, exercise, fitness, and pregnancy?

What kind(s) of physical activity/exercise should I do?

Do you recommend joining a gym?



What is the connection between physical activity, exercise, fitness, and pregnancy?

Physical activity is about moving around and being less sedentary. Exercise is a more systematic, routine form of physical activity. Both or either can lead to all-around improved health and fitness, and by extension, to a healthier pregnancy.

Specifically, physical activity, in appropriate amounts can decrease the risk of developing conditions and their complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and osteoporosis.

Physical activity and exercise can help to: 
  • relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
  • help you maintain a healthy weight
  • help you sleep better
  • boost your energy
  • help fight off colds and flu by boosting your immune system (your body's defense system against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites)
  • give you strength and endurance to carry your baby both before and after it's born
  • build the stamina you might need during labor
  • improve the quality of your life in general
Getting into the habit of being as active as you can be now, as you are planning to become pregnant, should make it easy to continue to be physically active during your pregnancy.

What kind(s) of physical activity/exercise should I do?

Current research suggests all-around fitness requires three types of activities:
  • Cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobic dancing):
    • for health - to strengthen your heart and lungs - 30 minutes a day is best, but at least 20 minutes a day three to five times a week. Studies show that three 10-minute sessions a day are as good as one 30-minute workout.
    • to lose weight, do at least 30 to 60 minutes of continuous exercise three or more times a week.
    • for endurance, to prepare for labor and birth and keeping up after the baby is born
  • Strength training (lifting free weights, using resistance machines, doing isometrics): work all your major muscle groups twice a week. These activities strengthen your bones and muscles, and they boost your metabolism (increase the number of calories you burn).  Thus, they also help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Flexibility training (stretching, doing yoga or tai chi): every day for 10 minutes. These exercises keep you flexible, reduce your risk of injuries, and improve how you feel in general.

Do you recommend joining a gym?

What we recommend is increased physical activity - you can do it on your own or through a gym.

The good news is you can get many of the health benefits of exercise simply by adopting a more active lifestyle. An active lifestyle includes a total of 30 minutes or more a day of moderately strenuous activities such as walking the dog, gardening, or doing housework.

Some more ideas for staying active are:
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk upstairs to the other restroom
  • Walk to a co-worker's office instead of using the phone or email
  • Park further away when going to the store, visiting a friend, or going to work
  • Walk to the next bus stop before getting on
  • Don't use any drive-through services - get up, get out, and walk
  • Do stretching or isometric exercises while you watch television
  • Go dancing
  • Work in the garden
  • Take active vacations
  • Play a team sport or take lessons

© 2014 Childbirth Connection. All rights reserved.

Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 10/26/2012