Pre/Post Natal Exercise: What you should know

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

During my time personal training at Equinox, I took a course through Annette Lang on Pre/Post Natal training. She led a comprehensive course using book and practical work to understand this population.

I have trained several women during their entire pregnancy. It was part of their total body plan to maintain a healthy and strong body for themselves and their families. It is a very exciting time to be working with someone and there are numerous health benefits to exercising throughout the lifespan. The American College of Gynecology creates specific exercise recommendations for pre/post natal people.

Exercise during pregnancy has more to do with maintaining strength and endurance, rather than progressing due to the state of the body. Therefore, if you go into a pregnancy completely sedentary, it will be really challenging for the body to build up exercise tolerance from there. It is always imperative to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program when pregnant. This blog post serves as general guidance. I am certified to train pre/post natal women and have experience in the field. However, if you have specific concerns, contact your physician.

In some cases, my clients were required by their doctor to stop personal training towards the third trimester. Each trimester brings different changes for the body. I recommend reading about these if you are exercising. Stay mindful and self aware of how your body before, during, and after exercise. For safety reasons, it is important to listen when this advice is given.

One of the biggest takeaways for me is that: The exercise you do before pregnancy determines the exercise that will be safe for you to do during pregnancy. Thinking you may want to become pregnant in the future? Even if that is years away, it is smart and healthy to start moving today.

If you are pregnant but haven't been exercising much, I would recommend starting with walking and prenatal specific classes like yoga designed for pregnant women. You could discuss training with your OBGYN and see what they think.

Key terms you may have heard but don’t know exactly what they mean:

Preeclampsia: high blood pressure/ hypertension during pregnancy. Learn more about hypertension here.

Gestational Diabetes: diabetes during pregnancy. It will be very important to work with a specialist if this happens to you.

Joint Laxity/ Hypermobility: due to excess relaxin in the body, pregnant women can be hypermobile, or have an excess of mobility in certain joints. It will be important to lookout for this when doing certain stretches or range of motion exercises. This can lead to unintentional injury if you are not aware of your limitations here.

For example: reaching back for something with your arm/ shoulder joint, you may be able to reach back further than normal, but that doesn’t mean you should, as you could still hurt yourself.

The most important things to keep in mind during pre/postnatal exercise:

Core strength: it is imperative not to expand the core muscles during exercise. They should be engaged by wrapping inwards using proper breathing patterns (belly breathing). Belly breathing occurs when you inhale and exhale through the stomach and not the chest, which has many health benefits.

If the core is not activated regularly and correctly during pregnancy, diastis recti may occur. This is when the abdominal muscles stretch away from each other over time. This is very common, but great if you can avoid it through safe and appropriate breathing and core work.

Posture: many people who become pregnant have a change in posture over time, this is something to be aware of and proper exercise patterns can combat this. Functional movement is an important part of maintaining good posture. After the baby is born, posture can continue to shift as you begin to hold your child in different positions for long periods of time.

Things to avoid during exercise when pregnant:

Laying on stomach: core work should be modified

Laying flat on your back for long periods of time: core work should be modified

High risk activities that could cause falling and injury to the fetus including some jumping and balancing exercises.

There is also a list of foods that pregnant people should and should not consume. It is best to speak with a Dietician for more information.

Training people before, during, and after pregnancy is very rewarding. There is so much to learn about this population and the above is just a general overview of pre/post natal exercise. Contact me at with any questions, comments, or concerns. I would love to hear about your own experiences with this topic.

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