Adding Exercise into Your Pregnancy and Postpartum Life


We all “know” that exercise is good for our physical and mental health, but often we do not prioritize it and often say: life gets in the way, it’s hard to make time, it costs too much, I need my sleep… we seem to find lots of reasons why we keep putting it off.  However, often with the news that we are now expecting a baby, our priorities shift and even if we won’t do it for ourselves, we are wanting to do it for our child. I say, whatever it takes!  However, there are some unique considerations when exercising during pregnancy and I want to explore those along with some options for exercise to consider (and consult with your doctor about). 

First off, why do we need exercise? What does it do for a pregnant body? 

According to ACOG (The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology), regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your growing baby  in these key ways:

  • Reduces back pain
  • Eases constipation
  • May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean birth
  • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Improves your overall fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
  • Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born

These are all important considerations during the pregnancy. Additionally,  according to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) moderate physical exercise in water is associated with a reduced total time of labor and birth. And according to a study published in The European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, women who exercise just three times a week throughout pregnancy have shorter labor — up to 50 minutes less than women who did not exercise three times a week or more. So, I think we can safely say, so long as your healthcare provider has cleared you for it, getting regular physical activity during your pregnancy appears to have a lot of positive effects.  

Our second consideration is safety; what can I and can’t I do while pregnant? 

The pregnant human body is undergoing massive changes while growing this sweet new tiny human and if we are going to be moving and getting regular exercise, then doing it safely matters. We turn to ACOG again for safety guidelines:  

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, a racing or pounding heart, and urinating only small amounts or having urine that is dark yellow.
  • Wear a sports bra that gives lots of support to help protect your breasts. Later in pregnancy, a belly support belt may reduce discomfort while walking or running.
  • Avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing, and exercise in a temperature-controlled room. Do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
  • Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back as much as possible. When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. Standing motionless can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet. These positions may cause your blood pressure to decrease for a short time.

And while pregnant, avoid activities that put you at increased risk of injury, such as the following:

  • Contact sports and sports that put you at risk of getting hit in the abdomen, including ice hockey, boxing, soccer, and basketball
  • Skydiving
  • Activities that may result in a fall, such as downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding
  • “Hot yoga” or “hot Pilates,” which may cause you to become overheated
  • Scuba diving
  • Activities performed above 6,000 feet (if you do not already live at a high altitude)

So what is safe during pregnancy and where can I find it?

As a general rule, if an exercise is one that you did prior to pregnancy on a regular basis, with doctors approval, you can continue that throughout your pregnancy until it becomes uncomfortable or too awkward with your growing belly. But if exercise is new to you or something you are restarting during pregnancy, the following are usually considered the best and safest options during pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends the following forms of exercise as generally considered safe during pregnancy. 

  • Walking. Taking a brisk walk is a great workout that doesn’t strain your joints and muscles. If you’re new to exercise, this is a great activity.
  • Swimming and water workouts. The water supports the weight of your growing baby, and moving against it helps keep your heart rate up. It’s also easy on your joints and muscles. If you have low back pain when you do other activities, try swimming. 
  • Riding a stationary bike. This is safer than riding a regular bicycle during pregnancy. You’re less likely to fall off a stationary bike than a regular bike, even as your belly grows.
  • Yoga and Pilates classes. Tell your yoga or Pilates teacher that you’re pregnant. The instructor can help you modify or avoid poses that may be unsafe for pregnant women, like lying on your belly or flat on your back (after the first trimester). Some gyms and community centers offer prenatal yoga and Pilates classes just for pregnant women.
  • Low-impact aerobics classes. During low-impact aerobics, you always have one foot on the ground or equipment. Examples of low-impact aerobics include walking, riding a stationary bike and using an elliptical machine. Low-impact aerobics don’t put as much strain on your body that high-impact aerobics do. During high-impact aerobics, both feet leave the ground at the same time. Examples include running, jumping rope and doing jumping jacks. Tell your instructor that you’re pregnant so that they can help you modify your workout, if needed.
  • Strength training. Strength training can help you build muscle and make your bones strong. It’s safe to work out with weights as long as they’re not too heavy. Ask your provider about how much you can lift.

All this sounds great, but how do you find someplace local to Scottsdale?  Well, first, ask other moms! Many of them will have great recommendations of places to consider.  You can also ask your healthcare provider or lactation specialist; even your chiropractor might  have some great suggestions. If you have hired a birth doula or newborn care specialist, ask them who they know. Generally people in the birth community are well connected to other providers and resources in the same space and can offer tried and true recommendations. 

And as for me, as a postpartum doula and newborn care specialist agency owner, I have some personal experience and favorites. 

Fit4Moms Scottsdale

This is a program specifically designed for pregnant and postpartum moms. They offer classes right here in the area that cater to moms in all stages of pregnancy and postpartum. The inspiration behind the Fit4Moms concept was originated by Lisa Druxman as Stroller Strides 23 years ago after she had her first baby. She wanted to provide a full body workout moms can do with babies in the stroller. But it wasn’t just about fitness, she wanted community. And she wasn’t the only one looking for something like this, she received requests from all around the country. Stroller Strides later became FIT4MOM as the company grew. Now FIT4MOM is the nation’s leading prenatal and postnatal fitness program, providing fitness classes and a network of moms to support every stage of motherhood – from pregnancy, through postpartum and beyond. You can connect with their Scottsdale affiliate here: 

Text/call: 602-838-6899 

IG: @fit4momphxscottsdale

Prepartum and Postpartum Yoga can be found at Modern Milk Scottsdale.  

They share “our fitness and yoga classes are the perfect way to connect with your body before and after baby! Our prenatal/postnatal certified instructors help guide you through each workout, making sure you stay safe and connected with your body’s needs.”  You can connect with Modern Milk here: 


[email protected]


Pilates can offer a great, safe and gentle workout for pregnant and postpartum moms.  In speaking with Jill Eisema, owner of Sundial Pilates in the Carefree/North Scottsdale area and a master instructor in the classical pilates style, she shared that careful considerations and proper training can make pilates an amazing strengthening choice during this important time in your life.  

You can reach Sundial Pilates here: 



This is also a great overall exercise during pregnancy and one that can be done without any extra cost (except maybe some supportive shoes) but keep in mind that you should practice good safety while doing it. Ideally you should not go alone, make sure that you have plenty of fluids with you and that while it is OK, with medical permission, to push yourself a little, that maintaining a level where you can still carry on a conversation is generally considered the correct pace.  

Exercise, in whatever safe form you choose, has great physical and mental health benefits for you and your baby that not only make a difference now and during labor, but that also continue long after the delivery of your sweet baby–especially if you keep them up and model them as a way of life for your new child.  Get out there and get moving mamas!



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