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Pregnancy Safe Fitness: What to Do, What to Avoid and What to Eat to Fuel Your Workout

Written by Sofia Martimianakis

Once you’re pregnant, you not just taking care of you but also the tiny human growing inside of you. you might feel like you should kick back and rest for nine months but as long as you’re feeling up to it, you can totally continue working out. Here’s advice from a fitness trainer on how to maintain a pregnancy safe fitness routine.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology worked alongside the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada to develop new guidelines for safe fitness practices throughout pregnancy. Their research shows that physical activity during pregnancy offers many health benefits for both mother and baby.

Following the recommendations in the new guidelines can reduce a mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and depression. In order to achieve meaningful health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of pregnancy related complications, pregnant women should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. The 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity can be spread across three workouts per week. In addition, at least 30 minutes of low-intensity physical activity is recommended to be completed every day.

I found myself able to thoroughly enjoy my pregnancy and I attribute that to staying active; keeping up a strong walking and hiking regimen all throughout my pregnancy as well as light weight-training in the first two trimesters. I was pregnant during the Pokémon Go craze and would spend my evenings chasing rare Pokémon with my husband and rough collie. We would average 20,000 steps a night! Finding a motivating factor that works for you is a great way to stick with your exercise routine. Recruit a friend or family member to complete your workouts with you. Create a playlist with your favourite pump-up songs. Plan the tasty meal you’ll enjoy post-workout.

Listening to your body’s cues is the best advice I can give. There were a few times that I was hiking uphill and started to see stars. I slowed down my pace, drank water, and did some deep breathing until I felt well-enough to continue with my hike. If you experience any discomfort while completing your physical activity like dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea, take a break and consider modifying the exercise.

What Activities to do Every Day

30-60 Minutes of Low-Intensity Physical Activity, including:

  • Walking
  • Prenatal Yoga
  • Dynamic Stretching
  • Water Aerobics
  • Biking at a leisurely pace (can be completed on a stationary bike)
  • Tai Chi (but avoid extended motionless standing after first trimester)
  • Gardening, Grocery Shopping, and Household Chores

What Activities to do Three Times Per Week

50 Minutes of Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity, including:

  • Power Walking (at a pace difficult to hold up a conversation)
  • Hiking (try carrying a light backpack with water bottles and snacks)
  • Weight-Training
  • Swimming
  • Zumba or other Dance Classes
  • Bootcamp Style Workouts
  • Tennis
  • Canoeing or Kayaking
  • Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing

Physical Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • When weight training during pregnancy avoid using a bench on decline as well as flat bench work past the first trimester.
  • Crunches and Sit-ups
  • Split-Squats after the first trimester
  • Exercises that involve lying on your stomach
  • Backbends and Contortions
  • Hot Yoga
  • Biking on steep terrain
  • Impact Sports (hockey, football, basketball, soccer, boxing, martial arts)
  • High-Intensity Interval Training such as sprints, hill-climbing and jump-rope
  • Physical activities that increase your risk of falling (speed-skating, horseback riding, bouldering, surfing, down-hill skiing, snowboarding)

Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

When completing physical activities during pregnancy it is especially important to stay well hydrated and to eat a nutritious meal an hour before your workout. This will ensure you’re fueled and energized to make the most of your workout and can help prevent feelings of lightheadedness. A great option for a pre-workout meal is a balanced plate of carbs, fat and protein. This type of meal is also great for combatting first trimester nausea.

Example 1: Greek Yogurt Parfait

1 Cup of Greek Yogurt topped with 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter, ¼ Cup Steel-Cut Oats and ½ Cup Mixed Berries.

Example 2: Hearty Eggs and Avocado Salad

2 Hard-Boiled Eggs, ½ Avocado diced, ½ Cup roasted cubed Sweet Potato served on mixed greens and topped with your favorite vinaigrette.

Example 3: Tuna Salad

1 can of shredded Tuna mixed with ¼ cup Greek Yogurt, ½ an Avocado mashed, 1 Tbsp Dill, Juice from 1 Lime, Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste. Serve on toast or as a wrap.


While a consistent fitness routine during pregnancy can do wonders for you and your baby it’s important to listen to your body and stay safe while completing your physical activity. If you are suffering from health-issues and suspect that exercise during pregnancy would be contraindicated for you, discuss this with your doctor and see if any low-intensity physical activity is recommended.  One final tip, I stressed the importance of proper hydration earlier but forgot to mention to always keep an eye out for the nearest restroom. A restroom is a well-hydrated exercising pregnant woman’s best friend!


Did you exercise in pregnancy? How did it make you feel? Tell us in the comments.


You also may be interested in reading: 7 Tips for Safe Prenatal Exercise 

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.