Pregnancy health

Top 5 Myths About Pregnancy Exercise: BUSTED!!

Published On: 2 September 2019

There are SO many warnings about what to do and especially what not to do when you are pregnant. Obviously, many of these are given to protect the health of you and your unborn baby.

However, some warnings are the result of over-zealous marketing hype, particularly when it comes to pregnancy exercise. We’re about to bust the top five pregnancy exercise myths and help you enjoy an active and healthy pregnancy, to benefit both you and bub.

Pregnancy exercise advice from the experts

Healthy Bumps founder and mum of two, Alison Taylor, understands how important it is to continue exercising correctly during pregnancy – both for body, baby and mind! As an accredited Exercise Physiologist, Al is the highest trained professionals actually qualified to prescribe pregnancy exercises.

Her best advice is to constantly listen to your body throughout each stage of pregnancy, as any one day can be different to another. And always consult your treating doctor before trying any new exercises when you’re pregnant.

Here she busts the top five pregnancy exercise myths and gives you real and current advice about how to safely exercise during pregnancy.

MYTH 1: Lifting above your head

When you’re pregnant, your blood volume increases significantly to keep up the demand of gas and nutrient supply to your baby. This increased blood volume causes your blood pressure to be lower than normal.

Low blood pressure can be dangerous when you hold things over your head, or stand up quickly, or bend over for a long time. It can cause you to get dizzy and trip, or even faint and fall when you move suddenly, which is obviously a big risk to you and your baby.

But lifting weights above your head is not dangerous in itself, as long as you follow the safety tips and stop immediately if you feel any low blood pressure symptoms.

Top Tips:

  • If you haven’t done weights recently, take it slow and very gradually increase your weight as you get comfortable and know your body’s reaction.
  • Always start seated to try it out and see how you feel.
  • Start with no weights, then build to 1 kg only and so on as you improve.
  • If you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous stop immediately and decrease to lower weights and a seated position from now on.
MYTH 2: Lying on your back in the third trimester

Experts advise against lying on your back in the third trimester because it places the weight of your growing uterus and baby on your intestines and your vena cava – the main vein that carries blood back to the heart from your lower body.

But where this message has been muddled, is that you can — just not for too long. This advice came from the pregnancy warnings not to sleep on your back. But in terms of exercising, YES you can do short periods/exercises lying on your back. Only a minute or two is advised.

IMPORTANT*** If you feel any of the following, this is a sign to stop and either reduce the time spent on your back during workouts, or stop altogether if it is less than a minute: Dizzy – Faint – Nauseous – Breathlessness. Listen to your body and ease into it if it’s a new movement to your routine.

MYTH 3: Holding your breath

It’s natural to want to hold your breath when doing static exercises like yoga or pilates, or even during weights exercises that can be quite strenuous. However, holding your breath for long periods of time (even when you’re not pregnant!) can be very dangerous. Not only can it cause you to faint and fall, but there’s suggestions it can decrease the oxygen supply to your growing baby as well.

Like most things in life, it’s about common sense. Regular, controlled breathing will help with exercises like yoga and pilates (and may also help you prepare for labour), but extended breath holding is a no-no.

Myth 4: Don’t do ab exercises

This myth comes from misinformation around abdominal separation. Abdominal separation occurs due to the intra-abdominal pressure caused from the increasing volume in your core. Exercises such as crunches increase this pressure and therefore increase your risk and severity of abdominal separation.

Let’s get it clear, you should NOT do crunches.

But there are so many core exercises that are SAFE to do during pregnancy without increasing the abdominal separation. Your core is so important and if you don’t keep it strong, you’ll likely have a heap of issues during pregnancy and during and after birth. Read our blog on abdominal separation for all the info.

Myth 5: Don’t let your heart rate go above 140

This popular pregnancy exercise myth is based on old research. It’s now known that due to the changes in your blood volume, your heart rate also changes during pregnancy. And not everyone’s reaction to exercise is the same.

Instead, the rate of perceived exertion is recommended for most pregnant women in the majority of new research, such as pregnancy exercise reports published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The Borg Scale is a widely used indicator of exertion. The intensity of exercise is recommended to be 12–14 (out of 20) on the Borg RPE scale for most pregnant women.

Top Tips for Healthy Bumps

Now we’ve busted some of the most common pregnancy-exercise myths, find out all the latest nutrition, health and pregnancy info at

Al X

HB Founder, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Mum of Two