Exercise during pregnancy – 7 top tips

Regular exercise during pregnancy lifts your spirits and boosts your energy. Alicia runs the Editor's Beauty blog and shares useful advice on keeping fit during pregnancy.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine for Parents – Alicia Irvine-MacDougall is expecting her second child and has some good advice about exercise during pregnancy.
Alicia Irvine-MacDougall, who runs Editor’s Beauty, advises on exercise during pregnancy.
Photo: Alicia Irvine-MacDougall

Finding the motivation to exercise is tough enough at the best of times but during pregnancy the idea of working out can seem as unfeasible as climbing Everest. You’re knackered, uncomfortable and your baby is tucked so far up your ribs you can barely breath. If truth be told, all you really want to do is lounge on the sofa watching reruns of the Kardashians while indulging in froyo…or maybe that’s just me?!

Regular exercise during pregnancy lifts my spirits and increases my energy levels.

Yet irrespective of my desires for froyo, every day I force myself to take part in some form of exercise. Why? Well, despite the effort it takes, once I’ve made that decision to exercise and I’m standing there in my gym clothes working out, I feel a million times better. Not only does regular exercise during pregnancy increase my energy levels (something I’m in desperate need of this pregnancy), it lifts my spirits and improves any aches or pains I may have been suffering from. It also prevents any excess weight gain and helps maintain muscles mass, both essential in helping you bounce back faster after delivery.

Now in the third trimester of my second pregnancy and having exercised regularly through both pregnancies, I like to think I’ve learnt something along the way.

Working out at home can be just as effective as going to the gym.

So if you’re keen to get more active but are looking for a bit of extra inspiration, why not check out my top tips for staying motivated and keeping fit in pregnancy.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine for Parents – Pregnancy exercise: Alicia Irvine-MacDougall works out with a medicine ball in her garden.
Exercise during pregnancy – a shorter session every day at home is all you need.

Top tips for exercise during pregnancy

1. Book it in.  The biggest excuse for not exercising during pregnancy is simply not having the time.  Whether it’s twice a week, three times a week or daily, sit down with your calendar each Sunday and book in your weekly slots to exercise. By setting aside the time in advance there really are no excuses not to exercise.

2. Longer isn’t better.  Don’t fall in the trap of thinking you need to spend hours at the gym. It is totally possible to fit in a beneficial workout within just 30, 20 or even 10 minutes.  The majority of my workouts are around 30 minutes long (even when I am not pregnant) yet I still see and feel great results.  Also knowing I only have to keep my motivation up for 30 minutes makes it that much easier to exercise in the first place.

Illustrations: Ida Köhler

3. Work out at home.  Don’t feel like going to the gym, don’t worry you can have just as effective a workout working out at home. Simply clear some space in your living room (you don’t need much, just enough space for a mat and room to lunge) and you’re there!  Planning on working out at home regularly? I recommend investing in a set of lights weights (between 1 and 5kg) and a mat. This will allow you to complete an array of safe and beneficial full body exercises in the comfort of your own home, taking you through your pregnancy and beyond.

Important! Listen to your body and adapt exercise during pregnancy to your current fitness level.

4. Embrace the circuit. One of my favourite ways to exercise during pregnancy is in circuits. Not only can they be adapted to a variety of work out styles and exercises, but because they are timed in sets, it’s easy to produce a quick and efficient workout. Personally I like to follow Kayla Itsines’s circuit style, creating 2 different sets of 4 exercises and repeating each circuit twice for 7 minutes. In between sets, I take a minute‘s rest to catch my breath and rehydrate, this creates a total workout time of 32 minutes.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine for Parents – Pregnancy exercise: Alicia Irvine-MacDougall works out with a kettlebell in her garden.
Exercise during pregnancy helps to energise you – but listen to your body and adapt to your current fitness level.

See below for an example of one of my full body pregnancy workouts (can be done with or without weights).

Circuit 1
15 tricep dips
20 squats
15 Russian twists
15 side raises

Circuit 2
30 Step-ups
15 incline side mountain climbers
15 delt raises
20 walking lunges

5. Start Walking. Power walking has a bad rep but it really is a brilliant form of cardio, pregnant or not.  Low impact (meaning no stress on that growing bump or those aching joints), it’s an amazing fat burner, requires no equipment (other than a comfortable pair of shoes, preferably trainers) and can be done anywhere, with anyone.

Once I’m there in my gym clothes working out, I feel a million times better.

6. Remember your core.  It’s a common misconception that we should avoid all core exercises during pregnancy but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Exercising our core is essential to keeping our back strong, supporting our growing bump and ensuring. Russian twists (with a light weight and feet on the ground) and side mountain climbers on an incline (I use a weights bench for these but a chair or even a table would work just as well) are two of my favourite ways to work my core in pregnancy.


7. Listen to your body. The most important thing to remember when exercising during pregnancy is to listen to your body. Every pregnancy is different and every ‘body’ is different. Just because the other pregnant lady in the gym is still squatting 30kg doesn’t mean it’s right for you.  If it doesn’t feel right, stop, adapt what you are doing or try something else.

Alicia Irvine-MacDougall

Always a keen fitness fanatic, former magazine editor Alicia Irvine-MacDougall set up Editor’s Beauty after being inspired by her own experience of pregnancy and parenting. As the first of her friends to have children and with over 10 years’ experience working on fashion and beauty publications, Alicia quickly became the go-to-gal amongst her friends for advice on pre & postnatal exercise, nutrition, beauty and regaining that pre-baby confidence.

A hub for mums and mums-to-be, Editor’s Beauty provides insider tips on everything from exercise and nutrition, to stylish yet kid-friendly retreats, and beauty products and treatments that actually work!