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Cardio Exercise During Pregnancy

By Kristen Fisher ; Updated June 13, 2017

Many exercisers log hours of cardio in order to burn major calories and lose weight. While losing weight shouldn’t be your goal during pregnancy, regular cardio exercise has plenty of benefits for both your body and your baby. Regular exercise can help ease aches and pains, prevent excess weight gain and even give you a boost of energy to keep you feeling your best during pregnancy.

Skill Level

If you’re new to exercise, start slowly with low-impact cardio like walking or swimming and aim for about 30 minutes of activity three times per week, working up to more if you feel up to it. Experienced exercisers can usually continue their regular routine through early pregnancy, with the exception of a few activities, but check with your doctor to be sure your favorite forms of exercise are safe. You’ll probably choose to eliminate taxing or high-impact cardio like running as your pregnancy progresses and your body tells you to slow down.

Suggested Activities

Whether you’re working out at home, outdoors or at the gym, you have plenty of choices for cardio. Walking is ideal because it’s safe, it can be done anywhere and you can increase the intensity by upping your speed or walking on an incline. Or, try swimming, water aerobics, an elliptical, a stationary bike or even a fitness class designed for pregnant women. If you enjoy regular fitness classes, you can probably continue with most of them but be sure to tell your instructor that you’re pregnant so she can suggest modifications and tell you what moves should be avoided.

Exercises To Avoid

Regardless of your experience level, all pregnant women should avoid cardio that puts them at risk for a major collision or fall, such as horseback riding, skiing, biking and contact sports. Be extra careful about activities that require plenty of balance and coordination like step aerobics; as your belly grows, it throws off your center of gravity, making you more prone to spills.


It’s especially important not to push your body too hard during exercise. To keep yourself within safe limits, check yourself frequently during cardio; using the rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, from zero to 10, try to stay between three and five, recommends FitPregnancy. You should be breathing more heavily than usual but still be able to talk. Finally, take care not to let yourself get overheated; animal studies have shown that overheating may cause birth defects, according to BabyCenter.


No matter which form of cardio you choose, be sure every workout includes a warmup, cooldown and a few minutes of stretching before and after exercising. Take plenty of breaks, hydrate yourself before, during and after your workout and listen to your body; if you’re exhausted after 15 minutes, cool down and try again tomorrow. If you feel dizzy, short of breath or experience vaginal bleeding or pain of any kind, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if the symptoms don’t go away.

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