Prenatal Exercise Advice from French Doctors, & the Surprising Exercise You Should NOT Do While Pregnant!

Common prenatal exercise advice from medical practitioners in the United States is that you may continue whatever preconception exercise you did. Don’t increase your workout intensity, but maintain whatever routine you had. That’s why I was shocked to discuss prenatal exercise with my French obstetrician.

Once my morning sickness finally started to wear off I went to my obstetrician, thrilled to be able to start participating in activities other than sitting on the couch staring up at the ceiling because every other activity in the world made me dizzy and sick. When she asked how I was feeling, I enthusiastically replied that I was much better, and was going to start jogging again soon. “No, don’t do that!” she exclaimed. “Why not? I’d like to exercise again.” “Yes, you should be active, but do any exercise but THAT!” I was completely confused at first, but here is why. French doctors are very concerned with postpartum recovery and believe that jogging during pregnancy, when your joints and ligaments are loosening (in preparation for childbirth) and your pelvic floor is dealing with extra weight and pressure, will greatly increase your risk of having urinary incontinence later down the line. Basically, if you jog during your pregnancy, you may ending up peeing yourself for life.

They do strongly recommend staying active, eating a nutritious diet, and maintaining a healthy weight gain during pregnancy, not only for the health of your baby, but also so your postpartum recovery will be easier.

So what specific exercises are advised? Here are the French obstetrician’s recommendations for exercise during pregnancy:

  • Prenatal yoga: highly recommended, wonderful and gentle, helps destress, ease back pain and general pregnancy aches
  • Swimming: a fantastic low impact cardiovascular sport
  • Walking: walking is the favorite French form of exercise. Especially if it is walking through a farmer’s market, quaint neighborhood, local park, or shopping district.  For more on how the French like to exercise, see this post.
  • Biking: biking is also a great exercise, up until later in pregnancy, or whenever your doctor tells you to stop (some pregnancy conditions, such as abnormally low positioning of the placenta can make it dangerous for some women to bike during pregnancy)

Beyond this, they aren’t even all that concerned about the intensity of your working out. “Just make sure you stay active and get adequate rest. If you’re too tired after exercising then you’ve done too much” was my doctor’s final piece of advice (sometimes my doctor is really unimaginative in her wisdom).

This advice is radically different from what is advised in the States, so I thought I’d share!  Happy exercising fit mamas!



  • Claire

    Going up one flight of stairs felt like exercise when I was pregnant so it's nice to hear there is no one right way.

    • EatEnergizeExpect

      I love how sensible and simple the French about physical activity....its all about having "movement" in your life

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