The Importance of Exercise During Pregnancy: Encouraging Women to Stay Active


Exercise during pregnancy offers numerous benefits, yet it remains underutilized by many expectant mothers. Despite recommendations for physical activity during pregnancy, less than 30% of pregnant women worldwide meet the guidelines, compared to 45-55% of non-pregnant women in developed countries. Engaging in regular physical activity during pregnancy can mitigate the risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, and help manage weight gain. Additionally, it can aid in treating medical conditions such as improving blood sugar control in pregnant women with diabetes.

However, a significant challenge exists: less than half of healthcare professionals are familiar with pregnancy exercise guidelines, and only a third of pregnant women receive any professional advice on the matter. Despite official recommendations, it appears that these guidelines do not effectively reach the women who need them. In this article, we explore pregnancy exercise recommendations and how healthcare professionals can provide support to help women stay active during this critical period.

Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recommend that pregnant women accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Generally, exercise during pregnancy is safe for most women, though those with specific health conditions may need to consult a doctor before starting or continuing their routine. The Pregnancy Physical Activity Questionnaire can help pregnant women address any fears or concerns they may have. However, certain medical conditions necessitate avoiding physical exercise, such as uncontrolled hypertension, restrictive lung disease, multiple pregnancies (three or more fetuses), persistent vaginal bleeding, and severe anemia. Activities with a high risk of falls, high-impact injuries, or those that limit oxygen (e.g., training at high altitudes if not accustomed) should also be avoided. Vigorous-intensity activity is not recommended for previously inactive women, while those significantly exceeding physical activity recommendations before pregnancy are advised to consult a healthcare professional specializing in athletic populations.

Challenges and Concerns

During pregnancy, women face various challenges that may complicate exercise adherence. Concerns about fetal health, pelvic floor issues, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety can hinder the ability to stay active or maintain a regular routine. Moreover, lack of time or support at home can also present obstacles. Before advocating for exercise, healthcare professionals should truly understand how pregnant women feel and what their concerns and conditions are. A more personalized approach could be key, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution.

Tailoring Support for Pregnant Women

With a woman-centered approach based on their intentions and feelings, healthcare professionals could provide guidance that truly resonates. Four general profiles of pregnant women regarding physical activity can be defined: those who are already active and wish to continue during pregnancy (Profile 1), those who were active but do not plan to continue (Profile 2), those who were inactive but want to be active now (Profile 3), and those who were inactive and have no intention of changing (Profile 4). Each profile requires a different approach. For example, Profile 1 may only need a quick boost or assistance, but Profile 2 might benefit from a goal-focused approach. Profile 3 could benefit from motivational talks, and Profile 4 might need more advice on physical activity.

Practical Integration of Exercise into Daily Life

In addition to overcoming obstacles and concerns, pregnant women should strive to be practical when incorporating physical activity into their daily lives. For example, taking actions such as climbing stairs or having walking meetings can help. Identifying and acknowledging activities already being performed is important, such as household chores or running errands, as part of their physical exercise. Sometimes, healthcare professionals themselves face barriers to recommending exercise during this vital stage of a woman’s life, often due to lack of training, confidence, time, and resources. To facilitate their task, they could use infographics, like those created by the UK, which explain pregnancy exercise guidelines.


Pregnancy is a pivotal moment in life. It can be a unique opportunity to optimize and maintain health. It is crucial for healthcare professionals to be well-prepared and know how to motivate pregnant women to engage in exercise. These professionals have the power to change the message about physical activity during pregnancy, moving away from fear and misinformation and highlighting the benefits for expectant mothers. If any pregnant woman is interested in exercising, it would be most appropriate for healthcare professionals to refer her to centers with physical education specialists (Graduates in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences), who are the best-trained professionals to design exercise programs, both for seemingly healthy individuals and those with specific health conditions.


ENFÓRMATE is the space of EL PAÍS SALUD where we will discuss aspects related to physical activity, sports, and physical and mental health. Physical activity and sports are part of the culture of all civilizations and play a fundamental role in society’s health at all levels, both physical and mental, at all ages, from childhood to old age, in both men and women. From the field of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, efforts have been made to advance scientific knowledge about the importance of movement and physical exercise on the body, as well as the processes that explain why certain adaptations, modifications, or changes occur at different levels (physiological, anatomical, motor, emotional, or cognitive). Therefore, this space aims to seek scientific explanations that underpin and justify the beneficial aspects of physical activity and sports. Likewise, it will seek to discuss and refute certain myths or misconceptions existing in society about specific topics related to physical exercise and health.

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