Exercise with gestational diabetes

Exercise has an insulin-type effect on the body and so exercise with gestational diabetes is a great way of naturally lowering your blood sugar levels.

But what exercise is good or more importantly safe when you are pregnant?

Mel C aka The Mummy Trainer has written us a guest post to share with all you lovely ladies! Thank you Mel xx


Hi, I’m Mel C aka The Mummy Trainer!

I’m a Pre/Post Natal Specialist, a Personal Trainer and I have over 20 years of experience in the Dance and Fitness Industry.

I’m also a mom of two, which sometimes outweighs all of my qualifications!

Exercise during Pregnancy & Post Natal (1st 12 weeks)

When we become pregnant, there can be a lot of confusion about what we should/shouldn’t be doing.

What should we eat, what should we drink, do we need to take supplements, what’s safe/what’s not, it’s an absolute minefield!

I’m a mom of two and I remember going through the same process, I eliminated everything that was deemed unsafe from my diet but the one thing I didn’t eliminate was exercise!

Back in the day (think the 1940s/50s), when women became pregnant, they were told to rest and not overdo it. This translated into (if you were able to), sit down and don’t move!

Studies have shown that the more active you can be during pregnancy, the more likely that your pregnancy will progress uneventfully (providing there are no complications of course) and your labour should be a much easier (if there is such a thing!) experience!

I became a Pre/Post Natal Specialist after having my daughter (nearly 10lbs born and now looks like a ballerina!), I taught fitness classes up until I was 8 months pregnant and when I stopped, I couldn’t find anything in my area for moms-to-be/new moms, so I decided to train and here I am!

I want you to know that there is no need to be afraid of exercise when you’re pregnant or when you’ve just had a baby!

1st Trimester

During pregnancy, your body starts to produce a hormone called Relaxin, this causes your cervix and ligaments to soften which allows you and your baby to grow.

This hormone is produced from the beginning of your pregnancy through to the end, this also means that overstretching is very common when exercising and so certain stretches need to be avoided.

You may be experiencing morning sickness and possibly tiredness in the early stages of pregnancy. Exercise can actually be beneficial as it may ease the sickness feeling. You need to be aware of these new changes to your body and avoid falls where possible.

If you’ve already been following an exercise plan/working out regularly and you feel OK, then it is usually fine to continue.

2nd Trimester

Once you reach this stage in your pregnancy, exercises, where you need to lie on your back, should be avoided. Lying on your back can cause the weight of the growing baby to press down on the major veins to the heart, and can result in you feeling dizzy or lightheaded and can reduce the blood flow to you and your baby.

When exercising, rehydrating regularly is also highly recommended, as there is a risk of overheating to both mother and baby.

3rd Trimester

Small amounts of exercise are recommended at this stage and so a full-blown dance fitness class would definitely not be advisable!

Even if you are a seasoned exerciser, the changes to your body will certainly prevent you from exercising so intensely.

New Mommies (1st twelve weeks)

It is advised that you only return to exercise after a certain period of time has passed after birth and not launch straight into an intensive exercise program straight away.

Vaginal Birth

A minimum of six weeks is advised, providing there were no complications during Labour, you should also be signed off by your doctor/midwife before returning to exercise.

Caesarean Section

A period of 12 – 14 weeks is advised for a Caesarean Section. Most people do not realise that this is major abdominal surgery and as such, an extended period of rest/recovery is required. You should be signed off by your doctor/midwife and should avoid certain exercises such as sit-ups or crunches for at least the first few months.


Pre & Post Natal Workouts

I’ve created some short workouts for each stage of your pregnancy (including post natal), these can be done in the comfort of your own home and are easy to follow!

Workout 1 – 1st Trimester

Exercise 1 – Press-ups
  • Start by facing down with weight distributed on the hands and feet. The body is rigid and straight, and the hands are usually placed approximately shoulder width apart (the plank position).
  • Lower your body until your chest nears the floor at the bottom of the movement, and then return up to the starting position. This is one repetition
  • Remember to move in a nice fluid motion, keeping the core muscle groups activated. Breathe out on the way down, and breathe in as you come back up.
Exercise 2 – Lunges
  • Start by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground.
  • Relax your shoulders and allow your shoulder blades to sink down towards your hips. Keep yourself in this position by flexing your abdominal muscles to keep your spine straight and stable.
  • Lift your right foot off the ground by bending your knee and move your right foot forward like you’re taking a step.
  • Place your right foot on the ground, heel first.
  • Lean your body forward so you’re balanced on both feet, but keep your back and upper body straight
  • While keeping your upper body and back straight, continue to move your body forward until your right upper leg (thigh) is parallel to the floor. Your right lower leg (shin) should be perpendicular to the floor. You may need to bend your hips slightly to stay in this position, but keep your back straight
  • Use your right foot to push yourself upwards. Return your body to the position you started in, standing straight with your feet hip-width apart
  • Repeat on the opposite side
  • Can be done with or without hand weights
Exercise 3 – Stair walking
  • Make sure that your knee stays on top of the ankle/in line with the ankle push up/forwards using your glutes (aka butt) when climbing the stairs.
  • If the knee is forwards/over the toes – that’s putting pressure on the knee.
  • Do 40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest, 3 times
Exercise 4 – Shoulder Bridge (10 Reps)
  • Lie on your back in neutral spine, with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Your legs are hip distance and parallel. Your arms are extended along your sides. Press the backs of your arms into the mat.
  • Inhale: Press down through your feet to lengthen your spine and press you hips up.
  • Come to a bridge position on your shoulders with your knees, hips and shoulders in one line. Your abs and hamstrings should be well engaged.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. That’s one Rep

Workout 2 – 2nd Trimester

Exercise 1 – Standing Glute Raise
  • Using the wall or a chair for support, face the support in correct position, feet hip width apart and spine in neutral.
  • Draw naval to spine and lean into the support, hinging at the hips and place hands on the wall at chest with fingers facing upwards.
  • Straighten one leg out on the floor behind and lengthen it away. Lift through the supporting hip and soften the knee.
  • Draw naval to spine and slowly lift the leg up and back, squeezing the buttocks. Keep the upper body forward with both hips square to the wall and supporting soft knee.
  • Lower to the floor keeping the hips level and upper body still.
  • Repeat exercise on both sides.
Exercise 2 – Rear Lateral Raise
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and bend forward at your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Let the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders, your palms facing each other.
  • Without moving your torso, raise your arms straight out to your side until they’re in line with your body.
  • Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
Exercise 3 – Squat + Single Knee Lift (10 Reps)
  • Have a chair/wall handy to hold onto if you feel a bit wobbly/need the balance support.
  • Squat down, engage core, stand up, hands on hips and slowly lift the right foot off the floor, without lifting or twisting the pelvis
  • Repeat on other leg.
  • To progress, you could hold both arms out in front as you lift the knee (or hold a hand weight).
  • Good for butt, thighs and core.
Exercise 4 – Wall Knee Lifts (10 Reps)
  • Feet a foot or so away from a wall, feet hip distance, palms shoulder width/height, shoulders down
  • Slowly lift one knee in towards the wall, not allowing the pelvis to move or the shoulders to lift.
  • You can do the same move, but take the arm away from the wall, instead and keeping the shoulders down. Or, lift the opposite arm/knee for extra challenge.

Workout 3 – 3rd Trimester

Exercise 1 – Quadruped (10 Reps)
  • Get down on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart.
  • Relax your core so that your lower back and abdomen are in their natural positions.
  • Without allowing your lower back to rise or round, draw your stomach in as if you were trying to pull your belly button to your spine. Then hold for 5 seconds while breathing deeply.
  • Relax for a moment and repeat. That’s one rep.
Exercise 2 – Shoulder Circles
  • March for two minutes.
  • Slowly circle one shoulder forwards, up, back and down in a large exaggerated way.
  • Maintain naval to spine and lift chest
Exercise 3 – Cat Camel (10 Reps)
  • Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  • Gently arch your lower back—don’t push—then lower your head between your shoulders and raise your upper back toward the ceiling, rounding your spine. That’s one rep.
  • Move back and forth slowly, without pushing at either end of the movement.
Exercise 4 – Clam Shell
  • Lie on your left side on the floor, with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees. Your right leg should be on top of your left leg, your heels together.
  • Keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your right knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis.
  • Pause, then return to the starting position.
  • Don’t allow your left leg to move off the floor.

Workout 4 – New Mommies (1st twelve weeks)

Exercise 1 – Pelvic Tilts (10 Reps)
  • Do the pelvic tilt to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent.
  • Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly.
  • Hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat.
Exercise 2 – Kegels
  • Start out by tightening the muscles for about five seconds, then relaxing for five seconds. Do it four or five times in a row, a few times a day.
  • As it becomes easier, start holding the muscles tight for longer — working up to 10 seconds at a time — and doing more repetitions.
  • Ultimately it’s recommended that you do three sets of 20 Kegels every day.
Exercise 3 – Standing Squat
  • With your feet no more than shoulder width apart, squat slowly down. Notice how your pelvic floor feels.
  • Bring your feet closer together if you need to protect it more (if it feels weak or vulnerable as you squat).
  • Start with a small amount of knee bend first. Keep your back straight and check that you can still see your toes.
  • First do 4 – 6 squats, march on the spot for 30 seconds and then repeat. Build up to doing 8 – 10 in a row with good form.
Exercise 4 – Wall Push Ups
  • With hands in front of your shoulders set your shoulder blades in position.
  • Move your chest in towards the wall while breathing out.
  • Hold for a moment. Breathe in. Breathe out as you push back out from the wall.
  • If you feel there is any pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, move your feet in closer to the wall.
  • Repeat 4 – 6 times to start with good form.
  • Build up to 8 – 10 repetitions.

Exercise for Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) + Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) in Pregnancy

This is not an area that I work in at the moment but I have found some great exercises for you to try from the MuTu System Website

I hope you find these exercises useful, as with any exercise programs: Always ensure that you receive clearance from a medical professional prior to taking part.

  • Always Warm Up and Cool Down!
  • Be careful not to overdo it
  • If you feel any discomfort or pain, stop immediately!
  • You can find out more about me on my website: www.themummytrainer.co.uk

Special mention goes out to my Pre/Post Natal Mentor Claire Mockridge, she’s a wealth of knowledge!


Research on exercise with gestational diabetesresearch

Exercise guidelines for gestational diabetes mellitus

Prescribing physical activity to prevent and manage gestational diabetes

Exercise during pregnancy and gestational diabetes-related adverse effects: a randomised controlled trial

Gestational diabetes mellitus: physical exercise and health outcomes

Exercise for pregnant women for preventing gestational diabetes mellitus

Treatment With Diet and Exercise for Women With Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Diagnosed Using IADPSG Criteria

Physical activity interventions in pregnancy and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Exercise intervention during pregnancy can be used to manage weight gain and improve pregnancy outcomes in women with gestational diabetes mellitus

Acute effect of exercise on blood glucose and insulin levels in women with gestational diabetes