A Sports Medicine Physician's Recommendations for Exercise in Pregnancy

Lara Morgan Oberle, MD
March 23, 2021
A Sports Medicine Physician's Recommendations for Exercise in Pregnancy

As a sports medicine physician, I care for everyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes.  

But when I walked out of my first OB appointment 6 months ago - that’s right, I’m pregnant! - I had a mix of excitement AND fear. Being told to exercise made sense, of course, and exercise is something I discuss daily with my patients, but knowing what to do and how to do it during pregnancy is a different matter! I encourage my patients to exercise for the obvious numerous benefits--lower risk of heart disease, better weight management, improved joint health, etc. Adding these same benefits during pregnancy makes exercise an amazingly healthy pursuit!

Here are just a few of the benefits of exercise in pregnancy:

• Decreases aches and pains

• Lowers risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia

• Improves proper weight gain and ability to return to healthyweight postpartum

• Maintains heart/lung health

• Possibly shortens labor and lowers rate of C-section


The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This is consistent with the American College of Sports Medicine recommendation for every adult. Great news, though! If you were already doing this, you are on track. If not, now is the time to make a change.

What is moderate exercise?

It depends your fitness level, but in general, you should break a sweat and raise your heart rate without being completely out of breath. This can be accomplished with any exercise and duration of exercise activity. You only have 30 minutes 5x per week? Great! Shorter periods, but more often? Fantastic! Use a journal or app to track your activity.  Every minute counts towards your (and baby’s) health. 

My personal routine:


•   For my heart and lungs, to keep my weight in check, and to help prevent gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

•   In the first trimester, I mostly walked (briskly while listening to a podcast) with an occasional bike ride.

•   Now that the second trimester has brought a return of energy, I have added jogging and more vigorous rides on my stationary bike.


•   For a strong body throughout pregnancy and delivery. Strength training a few times a week will accomplish this.  

•   I opt for lighter weights in short circuits targeting multiple muscles at a time. If I feel up to it, I add more weight or rounds, but listening to my body has been key to not over doing it.

Core/pelvic floor

•  For returning to normal postpartum, and to help prevent long term pelvic issues.  

• During pregnancy you should focus on engaging your core safely, avoiding compressing or putting pressure out on an already stretched belly. At the time of delivery you need core/pelvic floor strength, but also need to be able to allow these muscle to relax.

•  My usual crunches have been replaced with stabilization exercises to engage my core and pelvic floor.  For example, use your breath to pull both slowly upwards and inwards and then relax.  Kegel's are not the one right answer; ask your obstetrician about pelvic floor physical therapy and continue to follow along with my pregnancy for more information.


•   For balance and flexibility.  Fluctuating hormones and a growing body can make things feel tight. Stretching helps.  

•   I focus on my problem areas (hips!) and add yoga when it feels right.

Here are some additional tips to help keep you active during your pregnancy! 

• Focus on the long term goal--healthy mom, healthy baby. Every time you exercise you help your well-being in the immediate time period, postpartum and long-term. This is your motivation!

• You know your body best, but the changes of pregnancy make pre-pregnancy normal activities a bit more risky. You may have to temper your expectations and goals as your body changes.  This is normal! There were days when my husband would run and I would ride my bike beside him. I felt everyone was watching… but who cares?! I am doing what is best for my body.

• All recommendations above are for a normal, healthy pregnancy. Special circumstances require more discussion with your obstetrician.

•  If you have unique needs or if you can’t remember the last time you exercised, now is still a great time to work towards a healthy lifestyle, but let your OB help decide the best path.

•  If you are a seasoned athlete, like many of my patients, you can likely continue at a high level, but it is imperative to be clear with your doctor exactly what you are doing so they can advise and monitor.

•  Avoid contact sports or activities where you could get hit in the belly or fall. You should avoid heated classes andactivities that could cause you to overheat or overly exert yourself.

What’s next for me?

As my pregnancy progresses my abilities and plans will likely change, but not my goal. Long-term health requires daily small choices that add up to lasting success. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise throughout pregnancy. I will keep sharing my journey with you on my social media and website.  

We got this!

Lara Morgan Oberle, MD

Lara Morgan Oberle, MD

Lara Morgan Oberle, MD is a board-certified Sports Medicine Specialist. She has served as a team physician for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Kings, and USC Trojans and as a faculty physician for prestigious organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic and Keck Medicine of USC. Additionally, Dr. Oberle has worked with numerous seasoned athletes and adults pursuing a healthy lifestyle.  She is passionate about integrating health and well-being into her medical practice, which inspired her to create her website SportsDrMorgan.com and social media presence on Instagram @sportsdrmorgan to expand her reach beyond the clinic by sharing sports medicine information, healthy living tips, and stories from her life. Dr. Oberle has completed marathons, triathlons and loves yoga and eating well.  She spends her free time being active with her husband and cuddling her French Bulldog. She is currently expecting her first child at age 38.

Need help choosing the right products or services for your journey?

Check out the products for TTC through parenthood in the Babies After 35 Amazon shop, online courses and other services that come "Dr. Clark-approved"!

Check out my favorite things