10 Pregnancy Exercise Myths Busted

a pregnant woman wearing jeans and a black top leaning against a wall

There are a lot of myths about what exercise you can and can’t do during pregnancy. A lot of advice was given before the medical profession realised the benefits of exercise in pregnancy. Here are ten myths we’ve busted to put your mind at rest if you want to continue to train whilst you’re pregnant.

Can I lift weights during pregnancy?

Myth#1 – You can’t weight lift or weight train while pregnant.

#Truth – Yes, you can. If you’re already used to weight lifting you don’t have to give up. As your pregnancy progresses, you may have to take it a little steadier, but being strong means you’ll cope better with labour.

Do I need to keep my heart rate under 140bpm?

Myth#2 – Your heart rate must not go over 140bpm.

#Truth –The Mayo Clinic confirm that there’s no specific heart-rate limit while exercising. As long as you can still speak and you’re not out of breath, there’s no need to worry.

Can I lay on my back when I am pregnant?

Myth#3 – You must not lay on your back while pregnant

#Truth – The reason women were advised not to lie on their backs in the past was to avoid Supine Hypotensive Disorder (SHD). It causes a restriction in the blood flow to the placenta. However, most women will feel dizzy before this happens and automatically sit up. As long as you only lie down for short periods, and you haven’t been told not to because you have a high-risk pregnancy, you can continue to lie down for 5-20 minute periods.

Can I do abdominal workouts while pregnant?

Myth#4 – You can’t do core workouts

#Truth – Yes, you can. Exercises involving your tummy, back and pelvic floor muscles will help to prevent issues such as instability, dysfunction, pain and incontinence. You can continue to do core exercises apart from sit-ups, planks and crunches, and leg raises which you should avoid in your 2nd and 3rd trimester. This is to prevent excessive Diastasis Recti, which is the separation of your stomach muscles. But, it is associated with a weak core, so more reason to carry on with core exercises. Adapting core workouts that don’t create excessive pressure in your core are the way forward. 

Is it safe to run when pregnant?

Myth#5 – You can’t run while pregnant

#Truth – Running is a good way to keep active during pregnancy. The NHS recommends that all pregnant women continue to exercise if they are used to a training regime. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t continue to go for a run while you’re pregnant. If it is your second or third pregnancy – or indeed for first time mums – you may find that the impact has an effect on your pelvic floor strength, listen to your body and stop if you experience symptoms such as heaviness or leaking urine. Always carry a phone with you or let someone know your route and how long you intend be out for.

Do I need to do pelvic floor exercises if I am having a caesarean?

Myth#6 – You don’t need to exercise your pelvic floor if you are having a caesarean section

#Truth – The pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are weakened by pregnancy, as well as birth. So, you should do pelvic floor exercises even if you are having a caesarean. A strong pelvic floor will reduce the risk of a prolapse and maintain bowel and bladder control.

Is it safe to lift my arms above my head when pregnant?

Myth#7 – You must not lift your hands over your head during pregnancy.

#Truth – Lifting your hands above your head when exercising in pregnancy is safe and helps to stretch the shoulders and back. Do not keep your arms above your head for long periods of time if you suffer from high blood pressure. This makes the heart work harder to push the blood against gravity up to the arms and causes blood pressure to increase. There is no harm to baby for exercising or stretching with your arms overhead.

Can I still do boot camps or HIIT training when pregnant?

Myth#8 – You can’t train in boot camps or HIIT style training

#Truth – If you are already used to boot camp or HIIT training, you can continue. You may have to modify or reduce the intensity as your pregnancy progresses. Listen to your body and don’t try and push yourself too hard.

Is it safe to stretch during the first and third trimesters?

Myth#9 – You must not stretch for risk of injury

#Truth – Stretching exercises will help your stomach and back muscles to remain strong. This in turn will relieve back pain and help you to have an easier labour. Your body also helps you by producing hormones called progesterone and relaxin in pregnancy. This ensures that your tendons and ligaments relax the uterine wall to help oxygen intake and assists with opening- up the pelvic space to allow baby to birth at the end of your pregnancy.

Can I exercise towards the end of pregnancy?

Myth#10 – You must not exercise in your third trimester

#Truth – Yes, you can. As long as you avoid high-intensity workouts it is still beneficial for you to do some exercise in the final trimester. You can swap your normal routine for gentler exercises such as walking or swimming. 

Tips for safe exercising while Pregnant

  • Stay hydrated, drink enough fluid while your exercising and afterwards. Eat a high fat and protein snack when your workout is finished, so that your energy levels stay stable. This applies whether you are exercising in or out of the water
  • Don’t push yourself too hard, make sure you can still hold a conversation. Keep an eye on your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) which should be around 12 to 14 for moderate intensity. Have a look at the Borg Scale, which will help you.
  • Don’t get too hot as this leads to dehydration and can cause the baby’s temperature and heart rate to rise.
  • If you have any of the following, stop exercising immediately: dizziness, shortness of breath, chest or muscle pain, vaginal bleeding, lack of fetal movement or contractions.

Be Aware

There are of course some exercises that pregnant women shouldn’t do. Netball or hockey aren’t recommended because it is a contact sport. Other exercises carry the risk of falling, such as horse rising, roller blading and rock climbing.

If your health adviser recommends that you stop exercising because you have a condition that will put your baby at risk, then heed the advice and start again after you have given birth. High blood pressure, multiple pregnancy or diabetes are good reasons to talk to your health care professional before taking up or continuing an exercise regime.

Suffolk woman’s Wellness Centre has 3 specialist classes designed for pregnant women. These are all taught by Health Professionals who are also specifically trained to work in fitness with the pregnant client. Aqua Bump, Yoga and Fit for Birth are all tailored exercises to improve movement, reduce pain and discomfort and build strength and stability. They all provide something a little different, as we know women little to keep fit in different ways. Check out all our classes for pregnant ladies HERE


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