You’ve heard it all before: Get a certain amount of moderate and vigorous exercise a week to lead a healthy lifestyle. But, if you’re like many people, you just don’t seem to have the time, energy or motivation to willingly go break a sweat. Now that you’re pregnant, you may be thinking it’s the perfect reason to take it easy and avoid the potential for risks and complications.

In most cases, that’s actually the exact opposite of what doctors want.

Exercise during pregnancy is an important part of keeping yourself and your unborn baby healthy. While exercise through pregnancy may seem like the last thing you want to do, it’s absolutely necessary to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Humans are designed to move — and pregnancy is not a reason to slack off.

That said, there are some important things to know before you start your plan for exercise during pregnancy. Always speak with your personal obstetrician to find out what the best exercise for pregnancy is for you during the next nine months; the information presented in this article is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice.

In the meantime, find out some basics about exercise and pregnancy below.

What are the Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy?

If this is your first experience with pregnancy, you may be worried about doing everything just right to keep you and your baby healthy. You may be worried that engaging in exercise during pregnancy can put stress on your body and do more harm than good. You’re not alone in thinking this!

Fortunately, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy far outweigh any risks you may incur — as long as you do it right. When you meet with your obstetrician for your prenatal visits, they will often stress the importance of exercise during pregnancy to keep your body strong, prepare you for labor and help cope with the emotional challenges over the next nine months.

In one 2017 study, women who participated in fitness programs were less likely to develop gestational diabetes and less likely to have unplanned cesarean sections than women who didn’t exercise. Another study points to exercise during pregnancy as a way to reduce delivery complications, as well.

Certain exercises can help strengthen your abdomen muscles and pelvic floor for your labor process. Exercise through pregnancy will keep you in shape for the physically demanding process of childbirth, and it will play a role in helping you recover after your baby is born, too!

Exercise also has been proven to release endorphins, which can alleviate the symptoms of stress and depression. Many expectant mothers find that exercise during pregnancy helps them cope with the emotions of being pregnant as well as the physical side effects.

All of these benefits don’t even include the benefits to your baby when you exercise through pregnancy. An expectant mother’s exercise has been linked to reducing the odds of diabetes, boosting brain health, developing a stronger heart and more for an unborn infant.

Clearly, pregnancy and exercise benefits cannot be understated — so get out there and break a sweat, momma!

When is the Best Time to Start Exercise During Pregnancy?

Expectant mothers often ask, “When is it safe to exercise in pregnancy?”

The answer: As early as possible, with your doctor’s permission.

Ideally, a woman should already have a steady workout routine before she becomes pregnant. When she becomes pregnant, she can continue that routine, as long as her doctor gives it the “OK.” In fact, many women who have a steady workout routine actually exercise during their first few weeks of pregnancy anyway — before they even know that they are pregnant.

But, if you haven’t worked out during your early pregnancy, it’s never too late to start. When you choose to exercise through pregnancy from early on, you reap more benefits and give yourself more opportunities to physically prepare for the remainder of your pregnancy and your eventual labor and delivery.

What Exercise is Okay During Pregnancy?

The best exercise during pregnancy will always depend upon your personal medical history and current situation. Some women have preexisting conditions or are at risk for certain conditions that an exercise routine may exacerbate. Doctors may dissuade them from certain exercise routines or any exercise at all. Therefore, it’s important to always talk to your doctor about what is healthy exercise during pregnancy for your situation before you begin.

In general, though, doctors will recommend low-impact exercise routines for expectant mothers. It’s also suggested that they decrease the intensity of their workouts as they progress through their pregnancy.

Here are a few examples of safe, healthy exercise during pregnancy:

  • Yoga and Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Jogging (in moderation)
  • Stationary cycling
  • Step or elliptical machines

Expectant mothers should avoid contact sports or any other activities that require extensive balance and coordination, due to the risk of falls and other injuries (especially later on in pregnancy). Take it easy when you first start your exercise during pregnancy, play close attention to your body’s response during every workout and don’t be afraid to take a break when you need to.

How Do I Create a Healthy Diet and Exercise Plan for Pregnancy?

When you become pregnant, especially if it is unexpected, it can be overwhelming to adjust your life to your new normal. Your diet and exercise during pregnancy are important parts of these changes, but you may not know where to start. That’s okay — your doctor is always there to help.

If you ever have questions about what exercise is okay during pregnancy and whether exercise is recommended during pregnancy in your situation, your doctor should always be your first call. They are the ones who know the most about your medical background and personal health, and they can provide the best guidance on having the healthiest pregnancy possible. If you don’t yet have a local obstetrician, finding one should be your first step in creating your plan for exercise during pregnancy.

Remember this: When you’re pregnant, your baby is relying on you to give him or her the healthy environment he or she deserves over these next nine months. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, find a friend or loved one to join you in your workouts. You’ll thank yourself later!