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PLAYING: What exercise can I do and when?

What exercise can I do and when?

Exercising while you’re pregnant is important for you and your baby’s health. Physical activity can help you control your weight gain, lift your mood, and even help labor go more smoothly.

4 mins to read Dec 31, 2021

Yet there might be times when you don’t feel like exercising – perhaps during the early weeks if you feel sick or during the later stages if you feel uncomfortably heavy. The key is to set yourself achievable goals for each trimester that will keep you motivated and – most importantly – moving!

According to the latest Canadian guidelines, at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical exercise per week, spread over at least 3 days, can have numerous health benefits for you and your baby. Always speak to your healthcare provider about your exercise program during pregnancy.

1st trimester

Nausea and fatigue can zap you of energy and motivation during the first 12 weeks, but physical activity is one way you can help yourself feel better.

Active before pregnancy?

GOAL: Continue with your usual exercise regime if you can. Tired? Dial it down to a lower-impact activity such as walking or swimming – it all counts towards your 150 minutes, over at least 3 days, per week target.

Not active before pregnancy?

GOAL: Choose an activity you like and think about how you can incorporate it into your day. If it’s a new activity, start with short sessions and build up gradually. Add walks into your daily routine – a walk to the store, station, or bus stop, plus a 10-minute stroll around the block in your lunch break, will soon add up.


GOAL: Finding a friend or family member to be your personal cheerleader/coach/team-mate can help keep you motivated.

2nd trimester

For most women, these three months bring a welcome return of energy and an even more welcome decrease in fatigue so take advantage by getting back into your old regime (if you were active before pregnancy) or dialing it up if you started slow and steady. You might need to modify some exercises to accommodate your changing shape and sense of balance.

Active before pregnancy?

GOAL: If you slowed down in the first trimester and are healthy, you can get back to the same intensity and frequency of exercise as you were doing before getting pregnant.

Not active before pregnancy?

GOAL: Healthy, pregnant women can increase the activity they started in the first trimester. Walk for longer periods of time, at a faster pace, or find a more challenging route that involves hills. Alternatively, you might like to try swimming or pregnancy yoga.

3rd trimester

As your baby grows larger, you might find that tiredness returns, along with general discomfort and potential concerns about life with a newborn. The good news is that exercise may contribute to you feeling better both physically and mentally. And remember, your efforts during these past nine months will pay off with happy results for you and your baby!

Active before pregnancy?

GOAL: Healthy pregnant women can generally continue with their normal exercise routine as long as possible, tweaking some aspects such as squatting instead of jumping. If higher-impact exercise is too much, focus on moderate activity such as energetic walking. Walking has been shown to help relieve Braxton Hicks contractions (also known as “practice” contractions – when the muscles of your womb tighten for a few seconds and your tummy might harden).

Not active before pregnancy?

GOAL: Keep up the same intensity and frequency of activity you were doing during your second trimester for as long as possible. Struggling? Go back to walking for short bursts as your main daily activity.

Click here to download your training-by-trimester infographic. You can either print it out and stick it on your fridge or save it on your phone, tablet, or computer to remind you of your activity goals at each stage of your pregnancy.


  • Mottola MF et al., 2018. No. 367-2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. JOGC. 401(11):1528-1537.


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