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Pregnancy Exercise

Workouts To Try


Women who practice yoga or other stretching exercises during pregnancy report less stress and anxiety as well as less discomfort. These women also report less pain in labor and shorter labors. This may be due to yoga's ability to provide strength, flexibility and endurance training all in one exercise session.

In one study, women who completed three one hour sessions of yoga per week between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation had significantly fewer cases of pregnancy hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and intra-uterine growth restriction, and had fewer infants with small for gesatational age and low APGAR score. However, these results are not consistent accross all studies.

When choosing an yoga program, be aware research outcomes are for integrated yoga programs. This means it is not only the postures, but also includes either deep breathing, contempation or both.


Water exercise can do wonders for a pregnant body. Women who exercise in water, either swimming laps or completing water aerobics, have less physical discomfort and increased mobility. Water aerobics is more effective than land exercises for improving low-back pain. Exercising in water provides a good workout without the fear of falling. Water provides support for the body, cools the body during exercise, and most women find water exercise to be enjoyable.

Water exercise also improves swelling. A single 45-minute aqua-fit program session wearing a floatation vest significantly improved leg swelling for women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy . Women who participated in water exercise programs reported less physical discomfort, improved mobility and improved body image.


Researchers had a group of women begin a walking program by walking 15 minutes with 5 minute warm up and cool down three to four times per week, building the walking time by two minutes each week. They found both low and vigorous intensity achieved an aerobic benefit in the women, but the improvement in aerobic fitness was higher in the vigorous walking group.

In a similar study comparing women who started an exercise program at 13 or 20 weeks, researchers found by gestational week 28 women in both groups had improved fitness compared to a non-exercising group.

In another study comparing low-intensity walkers to non-walkers, the non-walking group had increases in blood pressure which was not seen in the walking group even though the weight gain in both groups was similar.


Babbar, S., Parks-Savage, A.C., Chauhan, S.P. (2012). Yoga during pregnancy: A review. American Journal of Perinatology 29:459-464.

Curtis, K., Weinrib, A. And Katz, J. (2012). Systematic Review of Yoga for Pregnant Women: Current Status and Future Directions. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012:1-13.

De Oliveria Melo, A.S., Silva, J.L., Tavares, J.S., Barros, V.O., Leite, D.F.B., and Amorim, M.M.R. (2012). Effect of a physical exercise program during pregnancy on uteroplacental and fetal blood flow and fetal growth: A randomized controlled trial.

Field, T. (2012) Prenatal Exercise Research. Infant Behavior and Development, 35:397-407.

Granath, A.B., Hellgren, M.S.E. and Gunnarsson, R.K. (2006). Water aerobics reduces sick leave due to low back pain during pregnancy. Journal of Obstetric Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 35(4):465-471.

Hartmann, S. And Huch, R. (2005). Response of pregnancy leg edema to a single immersion exercise session. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 84(12):1150-1153.

Rakhshani, A. Nagarathana, R., Mhaskar, R., Mhaskar, A., Thomas, A., and Gunashella, S. (2012). The effects of yoga in prevention of pregnancy complications in high-risk pregnancies: A randomized controlled trial. Preventive Medicine 55(4):333-340.

Ruchat, S.M., Davenport, M.H., Giroux, I., Hillier, M., Batada, A., Sopper, M.M., Hammond, J.-A., and Mottola, M. (2012). Walking program of low or vigorous intensity during prengnancy confers an aerobic benefit. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 33(8):661-666.

Smith, S.A. and Michel, Y. (2006). A Pilot Study on the Effects of Aquatic Exercises on Discomforts of Pregnancy. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 35(3): 315-323.

Stutzman, S.S., Brown, C.A., Hains, S.M.J., Godwin, M., Smith, G.N., Parlow, J.L., and Kisilevsky, B.S. (2010). The Effects of Exercise Conditioning in Normal and Overweight Pregnant Women on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Variablity. Biological Research for Nursing, 12:137.