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Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period

Raul Artal, MD, FACOG, FACSM
Section Editors
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Peter Fricker, MBBS, FACSP
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Women should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and muscle strength conditioning exercises as these activities have an essential role in health maintenance and the prevention and treatment of disease in all stages of life, including pregnancy. Regular aerobic exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy maintains or improves physical fitness and cardiorespiratory function, enhances psychological well-being, and reduces the risks for sedentary lifestyle-related comorbidities. However, exercise routines may have to be modified during pregnancy to accommodate the normal anatomic and physiological changes that occur in pregnant women and to avoid adverse effects on the fetus.

Pregnancy is an ideal time for positive lifestyle modifications, including increasing physical activity and consuming a more healthy diet. When pregnant, women tend to be highly motivated to improve unhealthy behaviors and have frequent visits with their providers, which facilitates counseling, support, and supervision.

This topic will discuss the benefits and risks of exercise during pregnancy and provide guidance about the frequency, type, intensity, and duration of exercise for various populations of pregnant and postpartum women. A healthy diet is also important and is reviewed separately. (See "Nutrition in pregnancy".)


Benefits — Potential benefits of exercise in pregnancy include:

The same long-term medical and psychological benefits of exercise derived by nonpregnant individuals. (See "The benefits and risks of exercise", section on 'Benefits of exercise'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 01, 2017.
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