Exercising Safely During Pregnancy: 3 Essential Considerations

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey filled with changes, and staying active can greatly benefit both the mother and the growing baby. However, exercising during pregnancy requires careful consideration to ensure the safety and well-being of both. As an exercise physiologist, I’m here to shed light on three essential considerations for exercising during pregnancy. In light of this, I want you to remember that the overriding message is any activity is better than no activity.

1. Resistance training

Throughout the first trimester you can continue resistance training as usual as long as you have no early-stage complications or contraindications. After the first trimester you may have to adjust your resistance training program.

Firstly, you will need to avoid exercises in the prone position, or exercises lying flat on your back. This can easily be avoided by adjusting your position to have your trunk at 45 degree angle, or changing your exercises to seated or standing variations.

The other thing you will need to consider, is your exercise sets, reps, and intensity. Due to significant changes to your body, biomechanics and centre of gravity, it is recommended to complete hypertrophy training, rather than strength training. This means increasing reps and reducing load.

  • Hypertrophy training: 8-12reps 3 sets 65-75% of 1 rep max (6-8/10 intensity)
  • Strength training: 4-8reps 4-5 sets 75-95% of 1 rep max (8-10/10 intensity)

2. Pelvic Floor Training

If you haven’t started your pelvic floor training already, it’s essential to get started! Your pelvic floor is crucial network of muscles that support your bladder, bowel and uterus, kind of like a hammock that supports. As your baby grows and develops, so does the pressure on your pelvic floor. This can render your pelvic floor susceptible to weakening.

Undergoing pelvic floor training from the start of pregnancy can ensure your pelvic floor remains strong and functioning well throughout pregnancy. This is essential in mitigating common issues, like urinary incontinence and pelvic pain during and post pregnancy.

Pelvic floor training not only assists with these symptoms during pregnancy but can also improve your experience during childbirth and recovery. A stronger pelvic floor can improve control of the pushing phase during childbirth and can speed up your pelvic recovery post-natal, so you can return to pre-pregnancy activity sooner.

3. Measuring Exercise Intensity

As mentioned above, during pregnancy you should aim to complete at least 150-minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. But for someone who hasn’t done much activity before, how do you know what moderate intensity activity is?

Some very easy ways to ensure you are working at a moderate intensity is to use either the Rating of Perceived Exercise scale (RPE scale) or the Talk Test. The RPE scale, breaks up exercise intensity onto a scale from 1-10, 1 being rest, 10 being maximal exercise. When exercising at a moderate you want to aim for an RPE of 4-6.

You may have seen people use or talk about using heart rate to measure exercise intensity which can be a much less subjective way to understand intensity. However, when pregnant you’re likely to experience an increase in resting and exercising heart rate. This is caused by an increase in blood volume, changes in hormone levels, and an increased metabolic demand. Therefore, when pregnant, heart rate is not the most accurate predictor of exercise intensity.


Remember that everybody’s pregnancy experience and journey is different and exercise needs to be tailored to each specific individual. Exercising during pregnancy offers numerous benefits for both the mother and the baby, but it’s essential to approach it with caution and mindfulness. By listening to your body, focusing on safety and comfort, and embracing the mantra that “any activity is better than no activity,” you can enjoy a healthy and active pregnancy journey.

Happy training,




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