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Prenatal Exercise Program Design: Exercise Type

Choosing the type of exercise that is best tolerated during pregnancy depends on the following considerations:

  • Which activities the client enjoys or is skilled at performing
  • Whether the activity poses any risk to the mother or fetus
  • Is she is able to do the activity without being compromised by balance and center of gravity changes
  • Can the activity be easily modified as pregnancy progresses

Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, and running help maintain bone mass and some studies suggest they are more effective for keeping pregnancy weight gain within normal limits. As pregnancy progresses some women may not be able to continue weight-bearing exercise because of back or round ligament pain. If modifications such as wearing a belly support don’t relieve discomfort, switching to non-weight-bearing activities such as swimming, stationary biking, or other types of stationary exercise equipment is recommended.

Absolute and relative contraindicated activities for pregnant women are listed below. Pregnant women should always consult with their healthcare provider before taking part in any exercise program and assess the risk/benefit ratio whenever there is a question about the safety of any activity during pregnancy. Keep in mind that activities such as downhill skiing must be assessed for risks that are not controllable, such as the effect of high altitude on oxygen delivery to the fetus.

Contraindicated Activities for Pregnant Women

  • High-altitude sports
  • Water-skiing
  • Hockey
  • Gymnastics
  • Horseback riding
  • Absolute
  • Downhill skiing
  • Scuba diving

You can also view Catherine’s previous articles on exercise intensity and duration.

For more information on prenatal and postpartum exercise and our CE correspondence course, “Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Design” please visit, www.ppfconsulting.com

Article reprinted from Catherine’s Maternal Fitness blog with permission.


Catherine Cram, MS, is the owner of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting, a company that provides pre- and postnatal fitness certifications and information to hospitals, health & wellness organizations and the military.

MFN Advisory Board and contributing author