Pregnancy seems to invite unasked-for 'advice', especially when it comes to the topic of exercise. Abi Jackson speaks to some actual experts

BEYONCE and Amal Clooney are expecting twins, Olympic cyclist Laura Trott just announced she's pregnant, while Amanda Seyfried, Natalie Portman and a string of other celebs - not to mention millions of non-A-list women out there - are sporting blooming bumps.

While not all of their announcements may have made the headlines, their news was no doubt cause for much joy for their own family and friends. And whether or not you have the budget for personal trainers and five-star gyms, keeping well is a priority everybody deserves to honour. But exercising during pregnancy is a subject that throws up a lot of confusion, across the board.

"There certainly is a good deal of confusion surrounding what's safe and what's not safe exercise-wise in pregnancy. There's a tendency for everyone to voice their views, especially when celebrities share their workouts on social media - suddenly the whole world has an opinion. It's almost as if when people fall pregnant, they become public property, others consider it their right to advise and even criticise," says pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert Dr Joanna Helcke, the brains behind the award-winning FitBumpBox and FitBumpBall exercise and wellness packages for mums-to-be ( "Although this is usually well intentioned, the net effect is many women feel unsure as to what exercise can be done and what should be avoided."

It's a subject being highlighted in the reboot of Sport England's hugely successful ThisGirlCan campaign. You may already have spotted some of the new posters, featuring women like Franny, who's still enjoying riding her bike despite carrying twins, and Stephanie, whose baby doubles up as a dumb-bell in her postnatal fitness class.

"We know there can be confusion about being active during pregnancy, and sadly, some examples of women being criticised for remaining active whilst pregnant. We want to show the normalness of being active during pregnancy," explains Kate Dale, Sport England's head of brand and digital strategy.

Research ahead of the campaign relaunch found 80 per cent of pregnant women would like to be more active. However, 13 per cent had been questioned or received negative comments for doing exercise, and 34 per cent confessed they were worried that being active could harm their baby.

Pip Black and Joan Murphy, co-founders of 'fitness destination' Frame, have just launched a new online platform for their 'Mumhood' classes, which feature yoga, Pilates and barre classes for different pre and post-natal stages ( "Mumhood was born out of the fact that when Joan, and then I, became pregnant for the first time, even working in the industry, we found it really hard and at times very confusing to find information about exercising during pregnancy that didn't contradict itself, or err on the side of caution. As people who were used to being active and needed to be to keep us sane, we started to do a lot of research ourselves into the risks and what type of exercises were safe, and which also would benefit you in terms of preventing pregnancy-related aches and pains, helping with the birth and with post-natal recovery."

Pregnancy - as with most things - does not affect every woman in the same way. Sometimes there are also long-term health concerns that might flare-up or affect somebody's needs or limits in terms of physical activity during pregnancy.

The Royal College of Midwives' official advice is clear: it is important to keep physically active during pregnancy - and this is the over-arching message.

But that doesn't mean heaping a ton of pressure on pregnant women to make sure they meet some pre-determined fitness target, and neither should those who are able to be pretty active get criticised.

The guidelines also note that everybody consults with a healthcare professional for individualised advice, and also that their activity and fitness levels before pregnancy be taken into account.

"Every woman brings to pregnancy her own individual fitness levels, so what might be right for one person could well be entirely inappropriate for another. We don't all think we should be emulating the Rebecca Adlingtons or Jessica Ennis-Hills of this world - they're top performing athletes - so why should we feel compelled to exercise like the latest celebrity who shares a video of her workout? Her workout will, in all likelihood, have been tailored specifically for her body, fitness and the way her pregnancy's progressing," says Dr Helcke. "The key is to ensure you're not throwing new stuff at your body, and that you're working at a level that is moderate by 'your' standards."

The Royal College of Midwives' advice for women who weren't regularly active before pregnancy is to chat with their GP or midwife, and then ideally aim to begin exercising for 15-minute bouts or less, three times a week, increasing gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.

"While 'listening to your body' may sound rather corny or a little unscientific, it is absolutely essential when it comes to keeping exercise safe during pregnancy," says Dr Helcke. "Women should be on the lookout for telltale signs such as feeling more fatigued than usual and taking longer to recover from a workout. Never attempt to work through these signs - they're our body's way of telling us to ease off. If this means working out less intensively, for a shorter period, or even moving to a more gentle form of fitness, then so be it."

Top tips for exercising during pregnancy

  • Hugh Hanley, father-of-two and national personal training manager at Virgin Active ( offers these tips for starters...
  • Before you begin, talk to your doctor. They should be able to give advice specific to you.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, before, during and after any exercise, and avoid overheating. Be sure to always warm-up and cool down.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing, and comfortable non-slip supportive shoes.
  • Keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute.
  • Past the first trimester, avoid exercising flat on your back - the weight of your uterus reduces the blood and oxygen flow to your baby.
  • During aerobic exercise, you will find you have less oxygen available, so lower the intensity of your normal routine.
  • Your metabolism speeds up during pregnancy, so remember to eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Your body produces a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. This hormone softens joints and ligaments to make the birth process easier, so be careful not to overextend joints that may result in injury.
  • Do pelvic floor exercises every day and you'll help keep your back and spine strong, and alleviate problems with bladder and bowel control that are common after childbirth.