Is it safe to do cardio when you’re pregnant?

Illustration of a woman holding her baby bump, with flowers a pair of children

When you get pregnant your first thought will likely be that you need to start being careful. Really careful.

You’re now carrying your most precious cargo inside your own body – so no more tequila slammers, or running red lights because you’re late for work – that’s a given.

But just how careful do you need to be? Pregnancy is nine months, give or take, and that’s a long time to completely wrap yourself in cotton wool – particularly if you’re used to a busy, active lifestyle.

Fitness lovers often want to know the safest way to workout when you’re pregnant – and one of the first questions is around cardio. You know, the heart pumping, sweat dripping stuff – running, cycling, rowing – can you still do it when you’re pregnant?

We asked Rosie Stockley, fitness professional and founder of Mamawell, for her expert advice.

Should we be doing cardio in pregnancy?

‘Is it safe to raise our heart rates? The answer is a resounding YES – if your pregnancy is “normal” and your doctor has advised that exercise is fine for you.

‘Always make sure you take note of how your body is feeling before and during exercise, keep hydrated and take regular breaks.

illustration of bloated woman smiling

‘It is worth taking some advice from a professional on what to avoid.’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for

‘Cardiovascular exercise that safely raises the heartbeat contributes to general health, promotes better sleep, can reduce the possibility of gestational diabetes, can reduce constipation and help with aches such as back and leg pain.

‘The NHS states: “Exercise is not dangerous for your baby – there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour”.

‘Even more reason for us to be keeping our energy levels up and making time for some exercise.

‘The NHS recommends starting gently and “Increase this gradually to at least four 30-minute sessions a week”.’

What about the rule about your heart rate not going above 140BPM?

‘This rule was specified many years ago but has now been disproved, with The Mayo Clinic stating: “If you exercised regularly before pregnancy, there’s no need to focus on your heart rate for exercise during pregnancy”.

‘When pregnant, your resting heart rate (RHR) is raised, therefore likely to be higher during exercise, so the heart rate monitors on cardio machines do not provide an accurate reading of intensity.’

How do you know what is the right intensity?

‘The NHS recommend being at level 12-14 on the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion which equates to “somewhat hard”.

‘This can be measured easily when you work out, by doing the talk test: You should be able to speak normally at all times, although be slightly too out of breath to break into song.

‘If you work out in the gym, it is worth taking some advice from a professional on what to avoid, particularly after 16 weeks.

‘There are so many exercises you can still do, so you just have to find the ones that feel great on you and your body and give you a safe and energising workout.’

Illustration of a woman holding her baby bump, with flowers a pair of children

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