What exercises are safe to do during pregnancy?

Swimming, yoga and pilates are your best bets, says Estelle Low. All this and more on www.shape.com.sg.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Swimming, yoga and pilates are your best bets, says Estelle Low. All this and more on www.shape.com.sg.

One of the biggest controversies about pregnancy? To work out or not to work out. Some say it’s best to avoid exercising altogether, while others say exercise is essential for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

During my recent pregnancy, I had a taste of this conundrum when well-meaning relatives warned me against exercising – “Rest as much as you can!” – for fear that increased physical activity would cause harm to my foetus. On the other hand, my doctor was nonchalant: “So long as you feel well, you can continue doing yoga and swimming, but try not to run.”

Given that I had no pre-existing health issues or pregnancy complications, I carried on with my weekly workouts of yoga, swimming and jogging. I was determined to stay fit for my sake and my bub’s. Among the many benefits of prenatal exercise: controlled weight gain, reduced fatigue and risk of depression, better sleep and easier labour.

Swimming while pregnant didn’t feel that much different, thankfully. As for running, I reduced my mileage and speed, eventually slowing down to brisk walks as my tummy grew. The biggest changes, however, were to my yoga routine. Carrying a fragile foetus meant I didn’t want to risk falling or put unnecessary pressure on my womb, so I avoided certain poses and modified others.

Main photo Ben Welsh/Corbis
Main photo Ben Welsh/Corbis


In the early months, you may feel well enough to do most yoga poses. But as your tummy gets bigger, avoid forward bends, backbends, inversions and poses that involve compressing or lying on your tummy. From the second trimester onwards, it’s advisable to join prenatal yoga classes, such as those at True Yoga, Pure Yoga and Space & Light Yoga. The poses are modified for pregnant women.

As for pilates, the prenatal classes at Powermoves Pilates in the Park, Breathe Pilates and Focus Pilates are well structured. The instructors can customise a workout, so alert them to any pregnancy issues before starting classes. Attending group classes means you get a chance to bond with other mums-to-be, too.

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Love the weightless feeling of being in the water? You’ll love swimming even more when you’re pregnant and sweaty all the time. This low-impact sport does wonders to soothe achy backs and pelvic joints. Plus, it gives a great cardio workout. In this humid climate, every pool session will feel like heaven.


Experts seem to be split on this, with some giving the green light to continue running as long as you feel fine, and others advising against it. Running could pose risks to your pregnancy, so check with your doctor before resuming your runs. The same applies for other high-impact activities like zumba and kickboxing. A safe alternative would be to use the elliptical as it takes the weight off your joints.


As you gain weight, your balance will be compromised, and could increase your risk of falling. If you must ride, go slow and stick to bicycle lanes. Otherwise, choose spinning. The bike’s handle bars can help stabilise you as your belly starts to throw off your sense of balance.


As tennis, squash and the like involve sudden, sharp movements and dashing about, it’s best to avoid playing them. With a flying ball, you also risk getting hit in the stomach. It happened to me once – ouch!

Read more at www.shape.com.sg

How to Be a Hot Mama www.bit.ly/shape-hot-mama

Maintaining a Flat Tummy After Baby www.bit.ly/maintaining_a_fl at_tummy_after_baby

Dos and Don’ts of Prenatal Yoga www.bit.ly/shape-prenatal-yoga

Shape’s online site – www.shape.com.sg – is updated daily with trending topics and quizzes on fitness, nutrition, health, beauty and lifestyle.