Getting In Shape While Pregnant [How To Get or Stay Fit Safely]

Today, you’re going to learn about getting in shape while pregnant.

Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • What you can and cannot do while pregnant,
  • What to expect in terms of weight gain, and
  • Strategies for improving or maintaining your fitness.

And if you are already in shape and you want to learn how to stay fit during pregnancy, there’s something here for you as well!

Let’s get started.


Can you get in better shape while pregnant?

For most women, yes, you can get in better shape while pregnant.

How fit you can get will depend on several factors. The most important one is your pre-pregnancy exercise activity.

If you didn’t exercise much before pregnancy, then you should definitely consider improving your fitness now.

If you were already exercising before you got pregnant, then DO NOT stop exercising! (*This is assuming you have no contraindication to exercising in pregnancy. You should always check with your healthcare provider first*).

So, if you were already fit before pregnancy, chances are, you won’t get in better shape.

With that said, you will be able to maintain some level of fitness if you keep up with a “pregnancy-friendly” moderate exercise routine.

So How Do I Get In Shape While Pregnant? (Or Stay Fit)

There are two main ways to improve or maintain your fitness in pregnancy.

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight throughout your pregnancy
  2. Maintain a consistent exercise routine

Let’s break each one down.

How To Stay Lean During Pregnancy

The only proven way to stay lean during pregnancy is to follow a healthy diet composed of all the key nutrients your body needs.

You can exercise all you want. But exercise alone will not help you stay lean if you don’t watch what you eat.

It is a common misconception to think that you need to eat for two when you’re pregnant.

Why would a tiny fetus need so many calories?


This is especially true in the early first trimester when your fetus is the size of a blueberry.

Here are the guidelines you should follow

First Trimester Caloric Intake:

Keep your daily caloric intake the same as usual. On average most women will need about 1800-2000 calories per day.

Second Trimester Caloric Intake:

Now that your baby is growing, this is when you will need to increase your caloric intake. But not by as much as you would think.

You only need an extra 300-350 calories per day. So in general, aim for about 2200 calories per day.

Third Trimester Intake:

The third trimester is when your baby will grow the fastest. That doesn’t mean that your plate should grow fast too.

Increase your caloric intake by another 100 calories. So in total, you should be eating about 2300 calories per day.

This is the most effective way of staying lean in pregnancy.

Can you lose weight during pregnancy?

In general, I do not recommend that you lose weight in pregnancy. Losing weight can be associated with pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction and preterm birth.

With that said, you may experience weight loss in the first trimester if you suffer from morning sickness or nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.

In general, your pre-pregnancy weight will determine how much weight you should gain throughout the pregnancy.


So How do I get rid of belly fat during pregnancy?

What if you are already overweight and have a lot of belly fat during pregnancy?

The best way to manage this is to (1) control your caloric intake and (2) exercise regularly.

As you just learned above, you don’t need to eat for two.

Your baby is tiny relative to you.

In general, you only need to eat 300 calories more per day in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

Here are some examples of meals containing 300 calories and less

  • 1/2 cup of brown rice with 3 ounces of chicken breast
  • 1 cup of oatmeal with berries and 1 banana
  • 1 medium potato and 3 ounces of salmon

Actually, you can track what you’re eating to get an idea of how many calories you are consuming on a daily basis.

Other Tips For Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

I also want to talk a little bit about a few other dietary recommendations you should follow in pregnancy.

In general, you should aim to eat as many high-quality, nutrient-dense foods as possible.

These include

  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, blueberries, bananas, avocados
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, peppers, squash
  • Protein: Lean chicken breast, salmon, cooked egg whites, quinoa
  • Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas
  • Whole grains: Oatmeal, rice, farro
  • Tubers: Sweet potatoes, potatoes

These foods will give your body all of the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to support itself, as well as your growing baby.

If you find yourself having a hard time consuming protein, learn about the best protein powder that is safe in pregnancy.

Similarly, these are foods you want to eat to stay healthy postpartum as well.

Minimize the other stuff.

For more information, check out my Fit Pregnancy Diet post.

Last but not least, you must focus on…


One of the most common things I see in our triage and OBGYN clinic is dehydrated women. We can tell based on the urine sample you give each time you come in.

Dehydration can cause:

  • fatigue,
  • muscle aches and pains,
  • thirst and hunger,
  • headache,
  • constipation,
  • uterine cramps

and more. Do your best to drink enough water every day.

In general, aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, or enough so that your urine is a pale yellow color.

Okay, so those are the dietary recommendations for minimizing fat in pregnancy.

Now, let’s cover exercising in pregnancy.

Is It Safe To Exercise While Pregnant?

Yes- it is very safe to exercise in pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has made it very clear that most pregnant women should exercise regularly to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

It is up to your doctor to make sure that you do not have any medical contraindications to exercising in pregnancy.


What Kind of Exercises Can A Pregnant Woman Do To Keep Fit?

So what are the best exercises you can do in pregnancy to get or stay in shape? We will start slow and work our way up.


The easiest and most fundamental form of exercise in pregnancy is walking.

If it’s safe, you should be walking every single day of pregnancy.

4 times a week, you should go on a moderately paced walk lasting 20-30 minutes.

Walking will help improve your total body circulation, activate and strengthen the muscles in your legs, and help you burn calories.

For much information on walking while pregnant, check out my post on When To Start Walking During Pregnancy.

If you do nothing else, you should walk throughout your pregnancy, on a regular basis.


Pelvic Floor Exercises

The second type of exercise you should do are pelvic floor exercises. These exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles in your pelvis that support your bladder, uterus, and rectum.

Pregnancy and childbirth tend to stretch and weaken these muscles, increasing the risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction later in life.

While most women focus on pelvic floor exercises postpartum, it is totally safe and recommended to practice them in pregnancy as well.

You don’t need any equipment or a lot of time to do them.

Which pelvic floor exercise should you focus on?

The Kegel exercise.

I cover all of the details of the kegel exercise in my post on pelvic floor muscles & exercises. (*Note: This post is written for postpartum women. In pregnancy, I do not want you doing any of the exercises where you are lying flat on your back).

Do 10 repetitions of kegels, at least 3 times per day, every single day.

Resistance strength training

Lastly, you should engage in some form of resistance training during pregnancy. This means exercising with dumbbells, or with your own body weight.

You could also use resistance bands – which provide you with an easy, effective, and portable way to exercise, anywhere.

These are the ones I recommend you get from Amazon.

Resistance training is important because it’s the only way to strengthen your bones and joints while promoting lean muscle development.


In general, you want to target 4 broad muscle groups:

  1. Your shoulders and arms
  2. Your back
  3. Your legs (quadriceps and adductors)
  4. Your glutes and hamstrings

You can check out my workout on how to tone your legs during pregnancy.

I also have a post targeting both 1 and 2 which you can check out here: The best arm exercises (+arm workout) for pregnant women.

I want you to do resistance training exercises at least twice a week for 20-30 minutes.

If you want other forms of exercise that you can do in pregnancy – prenatal yoga and swimming are also safe. Just be sure to find programs that are pregnancy-friendly.

Cycling on a stationary bike is also great!

Other Tips For Staying Fit During Pregnancy For Athletes

If you already followed a regular exercise routine before getting pregnant, it is usually okay to continue your workout routine with modifications.

This includes:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Resistance training
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Your doctor will assess how your pregnancy is progressing and let you know if there is something you should stop doing.

Obviously, you will need to make adjustments based on how far along you are and if you have any conditions that would preclude you from exercising.

The key is to avoid strenuous exercise.

A good rule of thumb is to scale back to 80% of what you are used to doing and adjust accordingly.

Now, there are certain things you should definitely avoid.

Let’s go over those now.

What exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?

Okay, so we covered the type of exercises that are safe in pregnancy. But what exercises should you avoid?

Here’s a list of things you should not do.

Heavy lifting (especially if you didn’t do this before)

While resistance training is important and recommended, you should not be lifting really heavy weights.

That’s because heavy weight training increases your intrabdominal pressure significantly which can lead to an elevation in blood pressure, decreased blood flow to your uterus, and decreased oxygen circulation.

Contact sports

You also want to avoid any kind of contact sports for obvious reasons.

These include basketball, volleyball, football, etc. Impact on your abdomen can lead to placental abruption and preterm labor.

Plyometrics and High-Intensity Interval Training

Similarly, you want to avoid exercises where there is a risk of falling. These include plyometric exercises like box jumps, broad jumps, and other forms of high-intensity interval exercises.

In general, you should not let your heart rate significantly exceed 140 beats per minute while exercising.

Supine Exercises

Lastly, you do not want to perform any exercises where you are flat on your back in the second and third trimesters. That’s because the pregnant uterus can compress one of the major blood vessels that returns blood back to your heart.

This is also the reason why we do not want you sleeping flat on your back either.

Obvious Things

Don’t do scuba diving, skiing, rock-climbing/bouldering, horseback riding, ice hockey, hot yoga, or other potentially dangerous activities while pregnant.

Other Related Questions

Can I do squats while pregnant?

Yes, you can do squats while pregnant. In fact, I have written an entire article on Squatting During Pregnancy. You may not be able to squat as deep as you would like to, but it can be done.

If you need to, you can perform a modified squat by holding onto the back of a chair for support. This way, you can use your arms to help you stand back up.


Can exercise cause a miscarriage?

In general, exercise does not cause miscarriages. Most first trimester miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, and not because of something you physically did.

However, if you have any kind of pregnancy complication or medical condition- please ask your doctor if it is okay to exercise. This is especially true once you’re in the second trimester.

Use good judgment, and stick to safe pregnancy exercises like the ones mentioned above if you are cleared by your provider.

What Are The Benefits of Getting In Shape During Pregnancy

So, why would you want to get in shape during pregnancy?

Well, we know that exercise in pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits to you and your fetus.

First and foremost, exercise is a great way to reduce your risk of some common pregnancy complications.


Reduced risk of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a very common metabolic abnormality that affects millions of pregnancies worldwide.

It is a condition where your body cannot process the carbohydrates that you eat appropriately, so your blood sugar levels remain high.

If not treated, GDM can cause your unborn baby to gain a lot of weight while growing inside your uterus which is known as macrosomia, develop metabolic problems at birth, and increase your risk of needing a cesarean delivery. [1] It also can increase your lifetime risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future.

Your OBGYN will screen you during your second trimester for gestational diabetes mellitus. I have written an entire post describing how to prepare for the gestational diabetes test.

Exercise may decrease the likelihood of developing this condition [2], and it can certainly help to manage it. [3]

Improved posture and reduced risk of back pain

If you haven’t experienced it yet – you may soon realize that pregnancy often causes back discomfort.

This is because the weight of your uterus displaces your center of gravity forward. As a result, your pelvis tilts anteriorly, and the muscles of your low back get tightened and strained. This also weakens your glute muscles and causes “mom butt.”


There is some data to show that exercise is effective in treating back pain related to pregnancy. [4]

That’s because exercise can help offset this muscular imbalance by strengthening the muscles that keep your pelvis in neutral alignment.

Improved energy and reduced fatigue

It’s no secret that exercise can significantly improve your energy levels. Women often think that they should spend the majority of their pregnancy resting.

This isn’t true!

Bedrest is actually proven to be detrimental in so many ways.

*If you have been placed on bed rest for a medical condition, there is hope. I have created a safe upper and lower body you could perform while in bed.

Although it’s counterintuitive, exercise during pregnancy can actually improve your energy and reduce fatigue. [5]

May minimize diastasis recti

Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal wall muscles that occurs in the majority of pregnancies. Exercise may potentially help prevent it.

Improved post-pregnancy recovery

Last but not least, women who exercise regularly during pregnancy tend to have a speedier postpartum recovery.

Wouldn’t you want to get back to your normal activities sooner rather than later?

Final Thoughts On Getting & Staying Fit In Pregnancy

Most women will benefit from prenatal exercise to improve or at least maintaining their fitness in pregnancy.

Regular and consistent exercise is generally safe and will provide you with several benefits pre and postpartum.

And regardless of your fitness level, improving your nutrition in pregnancy is always a good idea.

So what are you going to start doing to get in better shape?

Comment below and let me know.

Talk soon.

Be sure to check out my other posts on:

Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!


Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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  1. Kampmann, Ulla, et al. “Gestational diabetes: a clinical update.” World journal of diabetes 6.8 (2015): 1065.
  2. Nasiri-Amiri, Fatemeh, et al. “The effect of exercise on the prevention of gestational diabetes in obese and overweight pregnant women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Diabetology & metabolic syndrome 11.1 (2019): 72.
  3. Padayachee, Cliantha, and Jeff S. Coombes. “Exercise guidelines for gestational diabetes mellitus.” World journal of diabetes 6.8 (2015): 1033.
  4. Shiri, R., David Coggon, and K. Falah‐Hassani. “Exercise for the prevention of low back and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy: A meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials.” European Journal of Pain 22.1 (2018): 19-27.
  5. Ward-Ritacco, Christie, Melanie S. Poudevigne, and Patrick J. O’Connor. “Muscle strengthening exercises during pregnancy are associated with increased energy and reduced fatigue.” Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology 37.2 (2016): 68-72.
  6. Downs, Danielle Symons, et al. “Physical activity and pregnancy: past and present evidence and future recommendations.” Research quarterly for exercise and sport 83.4 (2012): 485-502.

8 thoughts on “Getting In Shape While Pregnant [How To Get or Stay Fit Safely]”

  1. I do not see why there are so many articles against heavy lifting during pregnancy.
    Let’s ignore pregnancy for a minute. If you told somebody, that in a few months when she does anything she would have to do carry a significant percentage of her bodyweight at the same time, I do not think that this person would say that light walking and yoga stretches are the best way to prepare for this. Heavy lifting instead seems particularly appropriate.
    As for the valsalva maneuver, you are holding your breath for a very short period of time. Remember that women who have asthma, or sleep apnea, have babies too, without issues. And anyway during the third trimester, the baby gets into your lungs, and while this is very uncomfortable for the pregnant woman, the baby is just fine by getting oxygen via the placenta.
    I’m in my 7-month of pregnancy. Currently my exercise routine focuses mainly on powerlifting (squats, deadlifts, presses and pull-ups). I’ve actually been able to lift heavier weights during my pregnancy, and each time I go to the obgyn my baby is doing great. I did CrossFit for 2 years before getting pregnant, so I was in very good fitness before, but so far I did not decrease much my exercise routine (except from avoiding exercises where I can fall).

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Maud,
      Thanks for your comment! That is great that you are able to continue your pre pregnancy workout routine and even lift more weight. Great job! For women that have worked out prior to pregnancy- including powerlifting, cross fit, etc as long as you are cleared by your physician, you can continue to lift. However as general advice to pregnant women, it’s usually not a good idea to start lifting heavy especially if they are not been accustomed to doing it pre-pregnancy.
      Keep up the good work!

    2. i just found out i’m pregnant and I am a powerlifter. I asked my doc before I even got pregnant his thoughts on me powerlifting during pregnancy and he said unless you end up with complications, continue until around 35 weeks then still lift just decrease the weights. I am certainly planning to continue. This isn’t my first pregnancy but i want it to be my most fit and active

      1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

        Hi JT,

        Thank you so much for your comment and congratulations on the pregnancy!

        I am glad you will be keeping up with your exercise routine throughout the pregnancy. Always listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right make sure to reassess the situation.

        Good luck!

  2. I’m only 4wks pregnant. I did Noom for 4 months to better my eating and worked out 5-6 days a week. I’ve been losing weight before Noom but was getting stagnant. I’ve been off the program for 2 months. Now after finding out I’m pregnant I’m eating leaner than I did before eating little process food. My main focus is to eat healthy (fruits, vegetables, protein, meats etc) but I notice I’m losing weight since eating leaner. Should I increased the amount I eat to avoid losing weight? I eat when I’m hungry.

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Marcia,

      Thank you so much for your comment and congratulations on your pregnancy :)! Maintaining a healthy diet/lifestyle during your pregnancy has been shown to have numerous benefits to your and your baby. Typically we don’t recommend intentional weight loss during pregnancy so I would ensure you are consuming enough calories in the form of healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. If you aren’t super hungry try eating frequent smaller meals throughout the day. Lastly be sure to follow up your OBGYN so that your weight could be monitored at each prenatal appointment.
      Hope this helps!

      1. Hi, and great article! I know you don’t have time to research every sport that is safe to continue while pregnant, but I was put-off at your blanket statement “obviously don’t rock climb” without any supporting research. Grouping rock climbing with hot yoga (which can never be safe while pregnant because of temperature) contributes to the harmful idea that pregnant women need to take it easy. I have been rock climbing 3 times a week for over 10 years as my favorite form of exercise. I did the research, and it is perfectly safe to continue with some modifications. I.e. no bouldering or lead climbing because of risk of falling, use a full-body pregnancy harness to accommodate your bump, and climb below your grade when you feel too much relaxin so you don’t pull anything. Saying “obviously no rock climbing” discredited the rest of the article for me. It would be more appropriate to say “obviously don’t START rock climbing, skiing, or scuba diving”

        1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

          Hi Alyssa, Thank you for your comment. You make a great point. It is best not to use blanket statements to encompass all types of physical activity.

          There are definitely unique cases in which women regularly participate in these kinds of activities, however, this is certainly not the majority. While it may be safe to continue these kinds of activities with modifications, you cannot completely eliminate the risk of falling. You have to weigh the risks and benefits in your own situation and decide if the small possibility of falling and having a catastrophic event in your pregnancy is worth doing the activity in the first place.

          There are so many other ways of getting in shape and staying fit in pregnancy that are much safer!

          Good luck!

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