7 Amazing Health Benefits Of High-Intensity Exercises During Pregnancy

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An expectant mother needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle during her pregnancy, which involves doing exercises. However, if you wish to do high-intensity exercises during pregnancy, you should first know its benefits and side effects.

You need to take utmost care of your baby’s health during pregnancy. Doing light-weight exercises and stretching can help keep you in good shape and help the baby develop well. However, ensure you do not put too much strain on your back or belly as it might put the baby’s health at risk.

Read on to know more about the exercises you should and should not do when pregnant.

In This Article

Basic Information About High Intensity Exercises (HIIT)

HIIT exercises help maintain fitness in pregnant women.

Image: Shutterstock

High intensity interval training or HIIT is a training regime that incorporates high intensity exercises with intervals. High-intensity exercising consists of different exercises including running and squatting. Some consider HIIT exercises to be more effective than cardio and traditional forms of endurance training. HIIT exercises are believed to enhance the body’s endurance and maintain fitness aspects of pregnant women.

Importance Of HIIT Exercises During Pregnancy

Consult your doctor before starting HIIT exercises during pregnancy.

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Practicing subtle and effective HIIT exercises can positively impact you and your unborn baby. However, consult your doctor before beginning exercises like cardio or HIIT during pregnancy, as these exercises involve a lot of energy expenditure.

HIIT exercises are best for women who have been doing it before pregnancy or have been involved in intense workouts before pregnancy, such as women in athletics, bodybuilding, and resistance training activities. It is best to wait until childbirth to do HIIT exercises if you never regularly exercised before pregnancy or did mild bodyweight exercises only. Even women who did HIIT earlier must do it with some modifications and can try them at moderate intensity during pregnancy.

Nancy Halterman, a mother and a prenatal fitness specialist, engages in a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout routine at 16 weeks into her pregnancy. She shares, “My workouts have been pretty good! I don’t do long, high-intensity intervals any longer, but so far, that’s been my only modification. I am still comfortably using 20-30 pound dumbbells for all of my HIIT style workouts for all muscle groups and expect this to continue my whole pregnancy. My favorite thing to do right now is sprints (i).”

Some of the benefits of practicing HIIT exercises during pregnancy are as follows (1) (2):

  • It helps reduce pregnancy niggles, such as back pain, pelvic girdle pain, constipation, and fatigue.
  • It helps to maintain a healthy metabolic rate, which is vital to maintain weight and prevent the mother from getting obese.
  • It helps to reduce depression or mental stress.

Effective HIIT Exercises During Pregnancy

Jump squats, High intensity exercises during pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock

  • Rounds
  • Jump squats
  • Clean and press
  • Renegade pushups/rows

When To Stop Performing High Intensity Exercise During Pregnancy?

Stop practicing HIIT exercises if you face sudden dizziness.

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Stop practicing HIIT exercises, if you encounter the following health discomforts (2):

  • Intense chest, joint or stomach pain
  • Sudden dizziness or fainting due to excess exhaustion
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Contractions
protip_icon Quick tip
If you’re a beginner and find HIIT exercises hard, then you can start with exercises, including walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, pilates, aqua aerobics and yoga (7).

Can Pregnant Women Practice High-Intensity Exercise In The First Trimester?

HIIT exercises may be safe to follow in the first trimester based on individual level of comfort and experience with such an exercise routine. However, consult your doctor before trying out any new exercise regimes during pregnancy and follow the suggested guidelines thoroughly. Further, the type of exercise followed can be modified to suit pregnancy-related physical changes (3).

Health Benefits Of High-Intensity Exercises During Pregnancy

Some of the health benefits of HIIT exercises are as follows (4) (5):

1. Reduce Pain:

Pregnant moms suffer from intense pain during gestation. Practicing high-intensity exercises during the first trimester reduces the symptoms of joint or back pain.

2. Promote fitness:

High-intensity exercises benefit more than just your muscles and joints. They can benefit various body systems and functions, keeping you fit.

3. Elevate Mood And Energy:

Regular exercising relieves anxiety and stress.

Image: Shutterstock

Regular exercising rejuvenates the feeling of depression and helps relieve anxiety and stress.

4. Improve Muscle Tone:

Keeps the muscle well toned and prevents unwanted sagging.

5. Prevent Gestational Diabetes:

Pregnant mothers are more prone to suffer from gestational diabetes and high blood pressure (preeclampsia). HIIT exercise prevents gestational diabetes and keeps the body fit and disease-free, which is also vital to maintaining proper fetal health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, gestational diabetes affects anywhere between two percent and ten percent of pregnancies in the United States each year.

6. Help Promote A Good Night’s Sleep:

With regular exercising, the pregnant mother would get a complete night sleep and stay away from the problems of sleep deprivation.

HIIT exercises, such as modified squats and standing hip circles, can potentially help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which will help prepare the body for labor and delivery.

protip_icon Did you know?
To strengthen the abdominal muscles and help prevent conditions (such as diastasis recti abdominis, known as abdominal separation), core stability exercises are advised during pregnancy (7).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. For how long can I do high-intensity workouts while pregnant?

Every pregnant woman and her overall health during pregnancy is unique. Therefore, the duration of workouts can vary. Nevertheless, remember to listen to your body and stop if you feel uncomfortable to minimize the risks of pregnancy complications, such as preterm labor (6).

2. Which exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?

Any exercise that involves intense movements should be avoided during pregnancy. A few examples include running, strength training using heavy weights, and contact sports.

3. How often should I do high-intensity exercises during pregnancy?

As advised by the ACOG, pregnant women should engage in about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities per week (2). In the case of high-intensity exercises, it is advisable to consult your doctor to determine the appropriate routine.

4. Can high-intensity exercises during pregnancy affect my ability to breastfeed?

In a study conducted on Vietnamese women, it was found that women who regularly engaged in physical activity during pregnancy had an increased level of lactation at 12 months postpartum (8).

5. How can I stay motivated to continue high-intensity exercises during pregnancy?

Finding a partner to exercise with, starting out small, not overexerting yourself, making exercising fun, and joining a class can help you stay motivated to continue high-intensity exercises during pregnancy.

6. How can I ensure I get enough rest during high-intensity exercises while pregnant?

Regular breaks in between exercises, listening to your body, avoiding overly complicated exercises, staying hydrated, and not overdoing it can help ensure you get proper rest while exercising during pregnancy.

You may continue doing high-intensity exercises during pregnancy if you’ve been practicing them before pregnancy or if you’re an athlete. HIIT exercises have been proven to relieve pain, boost mood, and promote a good night’s sleep. It can also help strengthen core muscles, aid weight management, promote cardiovascular health, and prevent gestational diabetes. However, before beginning any workout regimen, you should see your doctor, as not all exercises are safe for expectant mothers. However, you can modify several physical activities to accommodate pregnancy’s physical and hormonal changes. So stop exercising if you feel restless, out of breath, in pain, or have other health discomforts. Instead, try some lightweight exercises and stretching for optimum maternal health. You may continue doing these exercises after childbirth for good health and hastened postpartum recovery.

Infographic: Precautions While Performing High-Intensity Exercises During Pregnancy

It is recommended to stay active with movements and exercises during pregnancy. And if you have been practicing HIIT before pregnancy, you may continue to do so but with certain restrictions and safety precautions to prevent accidents. Give this infographic a read to learn the safety tips on performing HIIT while pregnant.

safety tips for performing hiit while pregnant (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) activities can be beneficial for pregnant women and their unborn child.
  • Pregnant women can safely perform HIIT exercises during the first trimester, but it’s recommended to consult a physician before starting.
  • Some health benefits of HIIT exercises during pregnancy include reduced pain, excess fat burning, and increased mood and energy.
  • Core stability exercises can help prevent disorders such as abdominal separation during pregnancy.
  • HIIT exercises should be discontinued if the mother experiences discomfort, breathing issues, vaginal bleeding, trouble walking, or contractions.
High-Intensity Exercises During Pregnancy_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Sally K. Hinman et al.; (2015); Exercise in pregnancy.
  2. Exercise during pregnancy.
  3. T. S. Nagpal et al.; (2021); To HIIT or not to HIIT? The question pregnant women may be searching for online: a descriptive observational study.
  4. Being active.
  5. Exercise During Pregnancy.
  6. Intense Exercise during Pregnancy: Too Much of a Good Thing or Not?
  7. Pregnancy and exercise
  8. Phung Thi Hoang Nguyen et al.; (2019); Physical Activity During Pregnancy is Associated with Improved Breastfeeding Outcomes: A Prospective Cohort Study.
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