BLOG International Women’s Day 2022

In the words of Beyoncé, ‘who runs the world? Girls!’ Now, can all the pregnant ladies put their hands up?

It’s hard to celebrate International Women’s Day when all you want to do is lay in bed, cuddle your pregnancy pillow, watch a movie, and indulge in your favourite foods; but did you know that there is a proven method of experiencing many physical and psychological benefits such as improving sleep, reducing lower back pain, reducing excessive gestational weight gain, and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression during pregnancy? Before you ask, it’s not available at your local store and you can’t ask for it at your baby shower, but you can bring family and friends along. If you haven’t guessed it yet, these benefits are found from engaging in physical activity during pregnancy, and more specifically, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as walking briskly.

Current thinking

Despite the benefits associated with following government guidelines of 150 minutes per week, (or 22 minutes per day) a recent study reported that only 32% of women are physically active during early pregnancy, with this figure dropping substantially to 12% in late pregnancy. For the 68% of women in early pregnancy and 88% in late pregnancy not adhering to these guidelines, there is an increased risk of complications such as developing gestational diabetes, higher gestational weight gain and increased blood pressure and of developing depression, as well as complications during childbirth. Now, 150 minutes per week may sound daunting, especially when you have a bump to carry around, but you don’t have to accumulate this time on the same day or through continuous activity, every movement and minute counts, and the more you do, the better. For example, activities such as walking the dog, carrying groceries, and yoga all count towards the 150-minute goal, and if you go beyond 150-minutes, the likelihood of improving your sleep, mood and reducing pregnancy related pain progressively increases.

Common Misconceptions

‘Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise’. ‘You shouldn’t begin exercising during pregnancy if you haven’t exercised before’. ‘You will harm the baby’. These statements, related to both cultural and societal opinions of the mothering role, are the typical misconceptions associated with physical activity during pregnancy. For previous generations, these myths were instilled in expectant mothers because of limited research showing that physical activity is beneficial and safe to do during pregnancy; therefore, these myths were not challenged. However, emerging research has discredited these myths with evidence-based results showing that pregnant women CAN be physically active every day, they CAN begin exercising if they have not been so before if they START GRADUALLY, and there is NO EVIDENCE of harm towards the baby, as long as the bump isn’t bumped.


150-minutes of physical activity can be achieved in smaller bouts over the 7-days, perhaps in snacks of activity. This is where you can get creative with your physical activity and timings, creating your own individualised plan of activities you love (and forgetting about the ones you don’t love). For example:

Monday: Morning dog walk (20 minutes) or walking the kids to school

Tuesday: Morning coffee walk with a friend (20 minutes),

Wednesday: Rest,

Thursday: Evening swim (30 minutes),

Friday: Rest (watch a movie),

Saturday: Morning yoga class (45 minutes) 

Sunday: Walk and talk with a friend at the park (60 minutes)

Equalling 175 minutes, this plan adheres to the recommended guidelines without including the extra smaller day-to-day activities such as climbing the stairs, carrying the shopping, and dancing (with singing optional). Also, this plan demonstrates that 150-minutes of moderate physical activity is attainable for most pregnant women when sliced up into smaller, achievable daily goals.

If you are interested in starting or continuing with your physical activity routine during pregnancy, I encourage you to do so; however, if you do have any concerns or further questions, please consult your doctor or midwife first.


Find out more about International Women's Day.

Kayleigh Sharp

Doctorate Student, Snacktivity Programme

The Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour


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