How Much Can a Pregnant Woman Swim?

Alexandra Powell Allred's picture


Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi there! I would like to know if you can give me advice with regards to getting fit during my pregnancy. I am 8 weeks pregnant; i.e. 8 weeks gestation. I am diabetic, and I also have high blood pressure prior to my pregnancy. My diabetes is under control through diet and medications. I am also taking blood pressure medicine, which is safe for my baby.Last February I was diagnose with a bulged disc on my lumbar sacral. I do my physical therapy exercises for about 1 hour three times a day with my physical therapist's supervision. I also do some of these exercises 2 to 3 times during the day for 15 minutes each on days I don't go to the physical therapy. This is what I mostly do as far as being active. My physical therapist told me that swimming is great for my back (most especially back stroke) to help reduce the size of the bulge disc. However, now that I am pregnant I am not sure how much swimming I should do, because it might raise my heart rate. I also would like to know if it is too late for me to do sit-ups.

Thank you very much for your advice. I am looking forward to your reply.



I am so pleased swimming was suggested to you because it really is the most beneficial to you given your medical history. Swimming is also a great exercise for pregnant women because as you move through your pregnancy, your joints will begin to loosen. More intense, higher-impact exercises can be hard on the body. Swimming will allow you to work muscles, burn calories and, strengthen your back.

There is no reason you cannot swim throughout your entire pregnancy. As for your heart rate, you must first speak to your regular OB/GYN before diving in but barring other medical limitations, you should be able to swim 30 minutes to an hour -- a regular aerobic routine.

While working on my book, Entering the Mother Zone, I was able to interview swimmers such as 5-time Olympian Angel Martino. Because there was so little information at the time about exercise and pregnancy, she and her trainer/husband decided to drop her level of intensity during training. But she found swimming "leisurely" to be boring. They monitored her heart rate, careful never to go over 140 beats per minute. Finally, they learned that given her athletic level, she was able to go to 180 beats per minute as long as she didn't stay at the level for too long. For every sprint lap, she would take a leisure lap back.Again, you must clear this with your doctor. Because I do not know what your anaerobic threshold is it is hard to determine the best training regimen for you. Do you belong to a gym? Consulting a local trainer who is:

  1. Certified
  2. Experienced in working with pregnant clients and
  3. Able to give you a comfortable yet challenging routine

is the best course of action.

140 beats per minute is the safety guide lines for pregnant women who do not exercise regularly. It may be that this is a safe guideline for you or, with the permission of a doctor and help from a trainer, you can train harder.

As for sit-ups, it is never too late. Typically, I suggest side sit-ups (again, please work with a trainer) throughout the pregnancy. However, you've given me a red flag. Because of a disc problem, you must, must, must get permission before adding sit-ups to your routine.

Let us know what your doctor says. If you are given a green light, I would be happy to offer you several pool exercise routines for building muscle and safe sit-up exercises. There is no reason why you can't have fun, tone-up and build muscle while pregnant. I have actually had clients who delivered babies healthier and more tone than before they even got pregnant!

You can do it. You are what you eat and how you train.

-- Alex


Submitted by wilmaglade on

Swimming is actually good for pregnant women because it is one way of therapy for your muscles. If you feel that you are getting cold, its the time that you must get out of the water.