Specific Sport Recommendations During Pregnancy

Sports OsteopathLeah Hearle dishes the truth on what exercises are safe and productive for a healthy pregnancy.

Stationary cycling

Stationary upright cycling is a low-impact, non-weight-bearing sport recommended by both the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) and ACSM. Studies indicate that fetal heart rate (FHR) and maternal temperature are not negatively affected. However, there may more variability of FHR and maternal temperature with higher intensity and longer duration exercise. Data have shown that cycling for 30 min at a maternal heart rate around 140 BPMor exercising for 15 min at a rate of 155 BPMhas not negatively affected woman or fetus (43). Research is currently ongoing examining the impact of higher level cycling seen in Spinning. However, no published research is available at present (13).


Swimming, an optimal exercise during pregnancy due to buoyant effects and the thermally conductive properties of water, has been recommended by ACOG, SOGC, and ACSM. Studies indicate that baseline fetal heart rate may be less affected by swimming than cycling (24).


Many women use walking as a primary means of exercise throughout pregnancy. It is recommended during pregnancy by ACOG, SCOG, and ACSM. Walking has been shown to be safe and increases maternal sense of well-being and decreases physical complaints. Additionally, walking has not been shown to have a negative effect upon maternal weight gain or upon labor outcomes (13).

Weight training

Conditioning exercises and physical therapy to help maintain posture and prevent low back pain have been recommended by ACOG. There have been no reports of adverse effects with light to moderate weight training with free weights or weight machines (7,13). Some studies have indicated that strength and flexibility are actually improved with these activities (13). Further, moderate strength conditioning has been shown to be safe in a healthy pregnancy with no obvious positive or negative effects (7). It has been found that there are minimal fetal heart rate changes from baseline and that fetal wakefulness is actually increased (13). Studies indicate that with rest periods between sets, healthy pregnant women may use strength training as a form of exercise (2). Weight training in the supine position late in gestation should be avoided because venous return to the heart can be compromised (7,13).

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Mayo Clin Proc. 2013 Dec;88(12):1388-97. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.07.020.

Ruiz JR1, Perales M, Pelaez M, Lopez C, Lucia A, Barakat R.

Olson et al (2009) Exercise in Pregnancy