Being physically active during pregnancy benefits both you and your baby.

Staying active throughout your pregnancy helps maintain fitness levels and improves your recovery after birth.  

Benefits for you

  • Fewer aches and pains (back pain, cramps) as your body will be better conditioned and flexible. 
  • Less chance of swelling in your hands and feet due to better circulation. 
  • Reduced chance of getting blood clots and varicose veins. 
  • Relieves nausea, as activity diverts blood from your stomach to your muscles. 
  • Reduction in heartburn.
  • Improved sleep quality. 
  • Improved emotional well-being. You will feel more relaxed and have less anxiety and mood swings. This is related to dopamine, endorphins and serotonin released by physical activity. 
  • Regular activity reduces risk of constipation.
  • Reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. 
  • Healthier weight gain in pregnancy [insert internal link] and easier loss of pregnancy weight. 
  • Getting outdoors in the sunshine naturally improves mood and boosts vitamin D levels. 
  • Decreased risk of experiencing high blood pressure [insert internal link]  during pregnancy. 
  • By establishing a good exercise routine you’ll have more chance of maintaining an active lifestyle once your baby is born.  

Benefits for your baby

Before birth
  • More effective nutrient and oxygen delivery and waste removal. 
  • Reduced body fat – this leads to a reduced risk of being overweight or obese later in life. 
  • Improved ability to handle stress e.g. late pregnancy, labour and birth; this also translates to a reduced risk of birth complications. 
After birth
  • Improved ability to adjust well to their environment, and settling after a disruption. 
  • More alert, less irritable. 
As they grow up
  • Better motor skills. 
  • Better performance on intelligence tests. 

Exercise helps you feel more energetic. This may be hard to believe if you are out of practice and have been experiencing low energy levels. Remember that when starting a new exercise routine, you may feel even more tired than usual for the first couple of weeks. Stick with it because within two weeks your fitness will increase along with your muscle tone, aerobic capacity and energy. This will lead to greater strength and ability to cope with daily challenges when pregnant. 

“I remember being just so tired and all I wanted to do was plonk down in front of the TV but once I got myself up and went for a walk it was amazing just how much better I felt. To help motivate myself I dressed in my fitness clothes and sneakers each day so there was no excuse not to do at least some sort of physical activity and I found it also helped me not to overeat”.

Set up your exercise routine well before your child is born and you will be much more likely to keep it going after birth. If you want your child to be physically active as they grow up you need to be teaching them by setting an example – you are their best role model. 

Want to know more?

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – Keeping fit during pregnancy 

Raising Children Network – Healthy pregnancy for women who are overweight