37 Exercises and Activities To Avoid While Pregnant
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Now that you found out you are pregnant (congratulations by the way!!) you are a little hesitant to do any kind of physical activity or exercise. That’s ok, a lot of women are unsure what is safe and unsafe to do in terms of exercise and physical fitness.
Being a physical therapist has helped me to better understand the female body, muscles, ligaments and all the changes that take place when you become pregnant.
Being a mom who has completed the pregnancy process 4 times has given me first-hand experience to understanding the anatomical and physiological changes.
I have definitely felt the changes and now clearly understand why there are so many precautions when it comes to exercise and pregnancy.
Understanding What Changes Occur To Our Bodies During Pregnancy
Let’s clarify what occurs in the pregnant woman’s body and why women have restrictions to exercise during pregnancy
1. Changes in hormones leading to changes in ligament laxity (looseness)
Women have sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen and progesterone.
During pregnancy, another hormone called relaxin also increases. This helps loosen your joints to help prepare your body (especially your pelvis) for delivery.
Because of these hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, exercise is more difficult and you are more prone to injury.
Ligaments become looser during pregnancy, and it increases the risk of sprains and strains throughout your body.
I actually experienced a sprain to my ankle during my first pregnancy.
And you know what, I wasn’t even working out! Haha.
I was walking rather quickly in the grocery store (I was on a shopping mission, if you know what I mean). I was wearing heels and this was the last time I wore heels when I was pregnant because I slipped BIG TIME!
I almost fell to the ground with my 3rd trimester pregnant belly and someone actually caught me, thank God!
Unfortunately I did sprain my ankle and was unable to walk for several days, but I know that I normally wouldn’t have sprained my ankle if it wasn’t due to my lax joints from my pregnancy hormones.
Lesson learned! Be careful when pregnant, you are just more prone to injury. And avoid the risk of falling at all cost. Don’t put your baby in danger.
2. Weight Gain
Obviously you are going to gain weight while being pregnant (and yes, it’s ok to gain weight).
It is important to gain weight for the health of your baby. Click HERE to find out what a safe weight gain is for pregnancy. This pregnancy weight gain calculator is amazing at estimating what is your specific target weight-gain for your personal body conditions.
But since you are gaining weight, you are also increasing the workload on the body from any physical activity.
The additional weight gain plus the effects of gravity can also slow down circulation of your blood and bodily fluids, most commonly in your legs.
Tips for easing swelling include:
- avoid long periods of standing
- avoid caffeine and sodium
- increase potassium in your diet (bananas, avocados)
- Stockings – Fluid retention can be prevented by wearing compression stockings
3. Certain positions can affect your blood flow
Lying flat on the back while pregnant (specifically 2nd and 3rd trimesters) compresses the large blood vessel leading from the lower body to the heart (known as the vena cava).
This decreases blood flow to and from the heart and causes a sudden decline in blood pressure.
This can cause dizziness or loss of consciousness and that’s why it is important to lie on your side (specifically the left side which minimizes any circulatory risks), especially when sleeping or lying down for longer periods of time.
Now that you understand what kinds of changes take place in your body during pregnancy, I hope it will be easier for you to understand why you cannot perform the following exercises while being pregnant.
The Ultimate List of Exercises & Activities To Avoid While Pregnant
1. Twisting Exercises
Twisting exercises include anything that involves rotation at the spine. Your core should remain in a neutral position without turning it to the right or the left side. Some exercises to avoid that require a lot of twisting at the trunk include:
A. Mason Twists or Russian Twists
B. Side Plank Twists
C. Standing Ab Twists
D. Sports involving twisting such as tennis or golf
2. High Impact
So many amazing workouts involve high impact moves. These workouts are a great way to increase your cardiovascular endurance; however, during pregnancy, you want to avoid these types of exercises.
There is a big debate in regards to running so consult your doctor to get approval to run during pregnancy.
High Impact activities that should be avoided include:
A. Jumping sports
E. High impact aerobics that involve a lot of jumping or a step aerobics class
F. Jumping Rope (or any workouts involving jumping)
G. Trampolines and trampoline parks
H. HIIT Workouts
I. Workouts involving skipping, bouncing, hopping or rapid motions/quick changes in directions
3. Exercises Lying on your Belly
Prone exercises, which are exercises that take place lying on your belly should obviously be avoided during all three trimesters. Exercises that require you to lie flat on your belly include:
B. Physio Ball prone rows or shoulder exercises
4. Exercise in High Heat Environments
Avoid all exercise in enviroments with high heat and extreme temperatures.
Exercising outside on extremely hot days is not advised during pregnancy.
Avoid working out with many layers of clothing which can cause you to sweat excessively.
Have your workout in a comfortable location.
Hot Yoga is not advised.
Dancing typically involves a lot of twisting and unpredictable motions in the trunk region, there is high risk for straining and/or falls. Zumba classes should also be avoided since this involves a lot of twisting motions in the trunk region.
If you are a dancer, I always recommend consulting your doctor to get approval before continuing.
6. Weight Loss Workouts
If your goal is to lose weight with your workout routine, I highly advise you to stop.
Consult your doctor about your weight concerns.
Your workout is not intended to help you lose weight during pregnancy but instead is meant to improve your overall health and the health of your baby while pregnant.
Your goal during pregnancy is actually to gain weight, not lose weight, in order to provide nutrients for your growing baby.
7. Contact Sports
Contact sports are a big No-No! I think this is pretty obvious.
You want to avoid the risk of blunt trauma to your baby bump and avoid forceful contact to the baby in your belly.
These dangerous sports during pregnancy include:
B. Dodge Ball
E. Kick Ball
F. Volley Ball
8. Fall Risk Exercises/Activities
Like I mentioned earlier with my near fall incident, you want to avoid falling at all cost. You don’t want to put your baby at risk of injury or worse due to a traumatic fall.
Certain exercises and activities should be avoid during your first, second and third trimester because of the high risk for falls.
A. Horse back riding
E. Biking (exception: stationary bike)
Jena’s Tip: A fall can occur unexpectedly at any time, but if you can avoid activities where there is a high potential for a fall, you might as well steer clear.
9. Heavy Weight Lifting
Avoiding exercises that involve heavy weight lifting is a must.
Lifting heavy weights puts added strain on your joints and can also increase your blood pressure to an unsafe level.
The musculoskeletal and cardiovascular risks are too high during heavy weight lifting workouts. It’s best to avoid them all together.
10. Exercises Involving Holding Your Breath
Exercises that involve holding your breath are extremely dangerous.
It’s called “Valsalva” – when one forcefully attempts to exhale against a closed airway (with your mouth being closed and no air passing through your nose).
A lot of people do this when working out, unknowingly, and this should be avoided due to the effects it has on your blood pressure.
Holding your breath can cause an increase in your blood pressure.
11. Traditional Abdominal Exercises
Traditional crunches and ab exercises should be avoided during pregnancy. These can put you at risk of sustaining diastasis recti during your postpartum recovery.
Crunches, sit ups and aggressive ab strengthening exercises that involve straining can be putting your belly at risk of developing a separation between the right and the left side of your abdomen (Diastasis Recti).
C. Double Leg Raises
D. Toe Touches
Physical Therapy Resource
I hope this list was helpful. My goal was to make it more clear for you and help you to recognize the reasoning behind why certain exercises are not appropriate during pregnancy. You might really enjoy reading this article by Strong Moms Fitness that explains everything you need to know about working out while pregnant.
You can use me as a physical therapy resource at any time. If there is an exercise or activity that you were thinking about trying, but you’re just not sure if it is safe, please contact me with your questions, and I would love to help. You can also comment below.
Remember, it is recommended to exercise while being pregnant, but just be safe during your exercise routine. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and get your doctor’s approval. Continue reading to learn about the Top 14 Prenatal Exercises that are safe to do while pregnant.
Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
**Always be approved by a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.