The benefits of exercise while pregnant are undeniable, and the recommendations for physical activity are straightforward. Many people enjoy participating in cycling or bike riding, whether it be outdoors or indoors.
Physical activity while pregnant has many health benefits for you and your baby.
Moderate exercise for about 30 minutes daily is the current recommendation for pregnant persons.
Indoor cycling offers the opportunity for safe physical activity during pregnancy.
Cycling modifications may be necessary for comfort and safety as pregnancy progresses.
Be aware of the danger signs of overactivity while pregnant.
However, while pregnant and especially in later trimesters, there are important considerations to think about if cycling is your choice of exercise.
Benefits of exercise while pregnant
Regular physical activity has many health benefits that are magnified when pregnant. Exercise is beneficial to you and your baby for several reasons:
- Reduce back and pelvic pain;
- Decrease risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia;
- Decrease risk of cesarean birth;
- Encourages healthy weight gain during pregnancy;
- Shortens postpartum recovery time;
- Improves heart and respiratory health and function.
Exercise tips while pregnant
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise for approximately 150 minutes a week, distributed throughout the week, is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendation for those with uncomplicated pregnancies. According to ACOG, moderate-intensity exercise is “moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You can talk normally, but you cannot sing.”
It is okay to begin a new exercise program while pregnant under the guidance of your obstetrician or midwife. Initial exercise time should be short, with the length of time increasing as tolerated.
Conversely, if you were very active before pregnancy, it is generally okay and recommended continuing the same or similar workouts while pregnant. Specific changes or modifications may need to occur as your body and your belly grow. It is essential to discuss your exercise plans with your obstetrician or midwife.
When exercise is not recommended
During pregnancy, there are some conditions or complications when exercise should be avoided:
- Placenta previa. Especially in the third trimester;
- Preterm labor during current pregnancy;
- Severe anemia;
- Cervical cerclage. Temporary closure of the cervix with sutures to prevent preterm birth;
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia;
- Pregnant with twins, triplets, or more AND risk of preterm labor. Especially in later trimesters;
- Heavy smoker;
- Existing heart or lung disorders.
Cycling while pregnant
Yes! You can cycle while pregnant. Cycling or bike riding is an excellent opportunity for moderate to vigorous exercise. Cycling is typically done outdoors on a road or mountain bike. However, indoor cycling is the recommendation for pregnant women, as outdoor bike riding carries a risk of injury for you and your baby.
Outdoor cycling while pregnant
Cycling outdoors is risky while pregnant and is not recommended by American professional institutions of obstetricians or midwives. Outdoor and off-road cycling carries a risk of falling. During pregnancy, your center of gravity changes as your belly grows. This impact on balance can render you more prone to falls and make it more difficult to maneuver out of a dangerous situation on a bike.
Indoor/stationary cycling while pregnant
The benefits and safety of stationary cycling while pregnant have been studied extensively. Additionally, stationary bikes have become a popular and exciting in-home exercise tool. Indoor cycling dramatically reduces the risk of falling and exterior distractions that may cause injury. Stationary bikes, recumbent bikes, spin bikes, and air bikes can all be used during pregnancy. Safe options that may make cycling more enjoyable:
- Spin class. These indoor cycling classes have become more accessible and can be attended safely during pregnancy. Make sure the instructor is aware of your pregnancy status, listen to your body during class, and cycle at your own pace when necessary.
- Interval cycling. Adding short periods of higher-intensity cycling is well tolerated by pregnant women. Standard stationary, spin, or air bikes are excellent options for interval training.
- Peloton or similar on-demand classes. A variety of classes and the privacy of in-home workouts.
Tips for cycling while pregnant
As you progress in pregnancy, your body’s response to exercise will change. Heart rate changes and breathing will become more apparent as pregnancy progresses. Due to hormonal changes, your joints will become more relaxed, making you more prone to injury. It is important to consider some modifications while you exercise to reduce the risk of injury for you and your baby. Cycling modifications to consider if you are pregnant:
- Listen to your body. Go at your own pace and be honest with yourself when you may be overdoing it.
- Food and water. Remember to properly hydrate and surround your exercise with nutritious, nutrient-dense meals.
- Warm-up properly. The length of your warm-up, including stretching, may increase as pregnancy progresses.
- Please stay in your seat. As pregnancy progresses, stay seated to reduce the risk of falling.
- Seat adjustments. A cushioned seat may provide more comfort for your expanding and potentially sore pelvis.
- Handlebar adjustments. Raise handlebars for comfort in later trimesters to avoid leaning sharply forward and placing unnecessary strain on the neck and back.
You can exercise, including cycling, to your tolerance until you deliver your baby, granted no complications or danger signs arise.
Know the danger signs of when to stop
Whether you are an elite athlete or a new exerciser, it is important to remember that pregnancy causes different stresses on the body that are continually changing as pregnancy progresses. No matter your fitness level, it is vital to be in tune with your body while exercising constantly. The following are signs of stopping exercising and contact your obstetrician or midwife immediately:
- Bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina;
- Regular, painful cramping of the uterus;
- Shortness of breath BEFORE beginning exercise;
- Feeling dizzy or faint;
- Chest pain;
- Calf pain or swelling;
- Concern for blood clots;
- Muscle weakness.
While indoor/stationary cycling is considered safe for uncomplicated pregnancies, speaking with your obstetrician or midwife about your exercise regimen is crucial. Above all, remember that the baby is in charge, and to respect what your pregnant body tells you.
- BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. Enhancing energy expenditure and enjoyment of exercise during pregnancy through the addition of brief higher intensity intervals to traditional continuous moderate intensity cycling.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise during pregnancy.
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy: Comparisons from around the world.
- Obstetrics & Gynecology. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.