Know the Guidelines

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released national guidelines on physical activity recommending that pregnant women free of obstetric complications engage in moderate-intensity physical activity on all or most days of the week.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) concur that pregnant women free of obstetric complications engage in regular physical activity throughout their pregnancy.

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity should be performed most or all days of the week.

    Pregnant women can adopt the same recommendation for non-pregnant women. That is, the accumulation of 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day should occur on most, if not all, days of the week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Sports Medicine)

  • Participation in most activities is safe.

    Most activities are safe, but those that have a high potential for contact or falling (ice hockey, soccer, basketball, downhill skiing, etc.) should be avoided. Scuba diving should also be avoided because of the increased risk for decompression sickness. (ACOG)

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity at altitudes of up to 6,000 feet is safe.

    Education on the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness is especially important for pregnant women. If exercising at higher altitudes, pregnant women should cease activity and descend from the altitude if they experience altitude sickness.(ACOG)

  • Walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, running, racquet sports and strength training are all considered safe forms of physical activity for pregnant women.

    ACOG recommends that athletes report to healthcare providers about their exercise and any possible warning signs of complications induced by activity.

  • Participation in regular weight-bearing exercise is recommended.

    It has been show than weight-bearing exercise improves maternal fitness, restricts weight gain without compromising fetal growth and may hasten postpartum recovery. The psychological benefits of exercise have been well-documented and hold true for pregnant woman as well.(ACSM)

  • Hydration is particularly important for exercise during pregnancy.

    During pregnancy blood volume expands in preparation for enlargement of the uterus and to meet the fetus' needs. Hydration contributes to better body temperature control and heat dissipation during exercise. In addition, loose fitting clothing and exercising in cool environments helps to decrease heat stress.(ACSM)