Are you pregnant and wondering if you can still lift weights or go to the gym during pregnancy? If you have no contraindications, then generally, yes you can. BUT there are some things you need to consider before you jump back into the gym with the routine that you were doing prior to pregnancy! This goes for any exercise regime you may have been doing prior to finding out that you are pregnant.
**Before we dive deeper into this, please note that this blog contains general advice only. You should seek advice from your health care professional before starting any exercise, or following any advice discussed here**
Current guidelines for exercising during pregnancy
ALL pregnant people without contraindications should be physically active during pregnancy! This includes those who:
- Are currently active
- Are currently inactive
- Have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The current recommendations for exercising during pregnancy are:
- Be active at least 3x per week
- Accumulate 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week
- A variety of aerobic and resistance type exercises should be incorporated into your routine.
Benefits of exercising during pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy offers many benefits, including:
- Reduces maternal weight gain
- Reduces the risk of postpartum depression.
- Reduces the risk of gestational hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes
- Less likely to need a Caesarean.
- Potentially reduces the length of 1st and 2nd stages of labour.
Exercising while pregnant is kind of like exercising with an injury. This means we need to make modifications and scale exercises as you progress through your pregnancy to help you continue exercising safely. This includes pregnant athletes who want to keep training for as long as possible.
Sometimes the question changes from CAN you do it, to SHOULD you do it?!
Contraindications for exercise during pregnancy:
Absolute contraindications (Red light – STOP!)
- Unexplained, persisted vaginal bleeding
- Placenta previa after 28 weeks
- Ruptured cervix
- Pregnant with Triplets +
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), thyroid issues or gestational diabetes.
Relative contraindications (Yellow lights – seek medical advice first!)
- Gestational high blood pressure
- Pregnant with Twins after 28 weeks
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
- History of spontaneous preterm/early labour
- Malnutrition or eating disorders.
Green lights (go for it – with guidance)
- Any other circumstance
- Whether or not you were active before you got pregnant!
So, can I still lift weights or go to the gym during pregnancy?
If you’ve been given the go ahead to keep exercising during your pregnancy, let’s take a look at some of the considerations that we need to make.
Exercise types that we need to consider scaling and modifying during pregnancy
The following groups of exercises are the main ones that need modifying as your pregnancy progresses, but this can be different for each pregnancy.
- Gymnastics movements
- Plyometric movements
- Impact cardio movements
- Barbell movements
When do we know that we need to modify or scale an exercise?
Symptoms that can indicate that it’s time to modify an exercise include:
- Presence of pelvic pain during an exercise
- Feelings of pelvic heaviness
- Doming near your belly button during an exercise
- Stress Urinary Incontinence during exercise
- Feeling of bulging in the vaginal opening
- Growing baby bump affecting barbell bar path
- Weight of baby and placenta on your pelvic floor
- Shortness of breath during the exercise.
How do we scale or modify an exercise?
It depends on the exercise, how far along you are in your pregnancy, and how your pregnancy has been so far – each pregnancy is different!
To get the most specific and relevant advice for you, it is best to speak to your medical team (midwife/obstetrician) and see a health care professional who has done specific training in helping pregnant people during exercise, such as an Exercise Physiologist, Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or personal trainer with additional training in pregnancy .
When do we need to stop exercising?
If you experience any of the following symptoms during exercise, it is time to STOP and seek advice from your medical professional.
- Severe chest pain during exercise
- Vaginal bleeding
- Persistent dizziness or faintness
- Persistent excessive shortness of breath
- Regular and painful contractions
- Persistent loss of fluid from the vagina indicating ruptured membranes.
Dr Brianna is a mum and chiropractor at our Morley clinic, and has a special interest in helping patients during pregnancy and postpartum to reduce their pain; support them through their parenting journey; and in achieving their health & fitness goals. She has completed further training in pregnancy-specific chiropractic techniques; and fitness training during pregnancy and postpartum.
Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S, et al2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:1339-1346.
Beetham, K.S., Giles, C., Noetel, M. et al. The effects of vigorous intensity exercise in the third trimester of pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 19, 281 (2019)