It is recommended that pregnant women combine cardiovascular exercise with moderate-intensity strength and flexibility exercises. They should aim to engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week spread over a minimum of three sessions. It is important that pregnant women respect their abilities and take all necessary precautions.
Moderate aerobic (or cardiovascular) activity increases the heart rate and is generally accompanied by a slight shortness of breath. These activities help to increase cardiovascular endurance. Examples of activities recommended for pregnant women include:
- Aerobic dancing
- Cross-country skiing, etc.
This type of physical activity allows for better oxygen circulation between a mother and her baby, in addition to reducing the risk of edema (or water retention). In order to ensure that the physical activity is performed at the right intensity (that of moderate intensity), pregnant women should be able to speak during the exercise without being able to sing.
Strength and flexibility activities
Strength and flexibility exercises are important, as they increase or maintain muscle strength, improve posture, and help to reduce back pain. Refer to the Active for Life document (p. 15-18) for examples of strength and flexibility exercises.
Pelvic floor exercises
Lastly, pelvic floor (muscles at the base of the pelvis) strengthening exercises are also recommended during pregnancy to prevent or reduce back pain and bladder weakness. You can download a handout on pelvic floor and abdominal exercises.
If lying on your back while exercising causes nausea, vertigo or any other discomfort, the exercise should be adjusted. Further, if medical contraindications exist, it is recommended that a doctor is consulted before engaging in any new physical activity.
Other precautions should be taken in order to avoid injury and discomfort during exercise.