Gestational diabetes (GD) is a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Although GD is not always preventable, regular exercise can help manage the condition.

GD is one of the most common complications during pregnancy, affecting up to 10% of pregnancies in the United States.

If left untreated, GD can negatively affect the pregnant person and developing fetus, and it may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes later on.

Regular exercise is an effective way to manage GD. Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of complications.

This article outlines the benefits of exercise for people with GD and provides recommendations for safe physical activity during pregnancy.

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Although pregnancy can make exercising more challenging, regular physical activity has multiple benefits for both the pregnant person and the developing fetus.

Benefits to the pregnant person

Regular exercise has many benefits for healthy pregnant people, including:

Exercising during pregnancy can also reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications, such as GD, preeclampsia, and perinatal depression.

Benefits to the unborn child

Regular exercise during pregnancy may also have the following benefits for the developing fetus:

  • improved fetal growth and development
  • reduced risk of fetal macrosomia, where the baby is born at a high birth weight
  • improved cardiovascular health
  • improved neural development

Read about the signs and symptoms of GD.

Although exercise is safe for most healthy pregnant people, certain individuals should avoid physical activity during pregnancy.

People with the following conditions should not exercise during pregnancy:

  • severe anemia
  • certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • cervical insufficiency or cervical cerclage, which is a procedure to prevent preterm labor
  • pregnancy with twins or multiples with risk factors for preterm labor
  • gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
  • placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy

Pregnant people should consult a healthcare professional before beginning or changing their exercise routine.

Read about the best diet for GD.

The following types of exercise are generally safe for most healthy pregnant people:


Walking is a low impact activity that gives the body a total workout without putting too much stress on the joints. Incorporating brisk walks or strolls into a daily routine can help improve blood circulation, strengthen muscles, and improve endurance during labor.

Water aerobics

Water aerobics, including swimming and other aquatic exercises, offer a gentle way to stay active during pregnancy. The buoyancy reduces the impact on joints, making water aerobics a safe and joint-friendly option.

Water activities can also help alleviate swelling and fluid retention, which are common during pregnancy.

Stationary cycling

Stationary or indoor cycling is a safe exercise option during pregnancy. It provides numerous benefits and is particularly advantageous for pregnant people seeking a low impact cardiovascular workout.

Modified yoga

Engaging in modified yoga during pregnancy benefits the body and the mind. Modified yoga involves adjusting traditional poses to accommodate a growing belly and other changing needs of a pregnant person. It provides an easy and effective way to maintain flexibility and strength during pregnancy.

Pregnant people should be cautious when exercising and avoid overexertion or pushing themselves too hard.

To prevent complications and ensure the safety of both the pregnant individual and the growing fetus, a person can consider some do’s and don’ts:

Consult a healthcare professional before beginning or changing an exercise routine during pregnancy.Engage in high impact exercises or activities that can increase the risk of falls, such as skiing or contact sports.
Drink enough water before and after exercising to avoid dehydration.Exert to the point of exhaustion.
Choose low impact exercises that are easy on the joints and muscles.Continue exercising if feeling pain or discomfort in the abdominal area, lower back, or pelvis.
Take frequent breaks and avoid exhaustion.Hold poses for an extended period or engage in twisting or bending exercises that can put too much strain on the abdomen.
Wear comfortable, supportive clothing and shoes that provide good traction.Engage in strenuous activities performed above 6,000 feet elevation.
Stop exercising if feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or unusual pain. Attempt scuba diving, sky diving, “hot yoga,” or “hot Pilates.”

Find more exercise tips for pregnancy.

Pregnant individuals with GD should aim to engage in physical activity, either aerobic or resistance-based, for at least 30 minutes per day, a minimum of three times per week.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant individuals engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

A person can divide the 150 minutes of activity into 30-minute workouts on 5 days of the week or into smaller 10-minute workouts spread throughout each day.

Pregnant individuals new to exercise should start slowly and gradually increase their activity level over time. This may mean starting with 5 minutes of exercise per day and adding 5 minutes each week until they reach their goal of 30 minutes per day.

Exercise is beneficial for pregnant people with GD as it can help regulate blood sugar levels, prevent excessive weight gain, and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Low intensity exercises such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling, and modified yoga are good options for pregnant people with GD.

Pregnant people should consult a healthcare professional before starting or changing their exercise routine.