Cycling is a great form of exercise, and if you’re a keen cyclist, you might wonder whether you can continue during pregnancy. Newly pregnant women often ask about cycling and are worried about intensity, positioning, and how pedaling brings up the knees and falling. So, can you ride a bike while pregnant?
The short answer is yes – but there are lots of considerations to make sure you’re safe. If you’re already a regular cyclist, you don’t need to change how you exercise or how you commute as long as you and your doctor are happy.
Riding a bike when you’re pregnant isn’t the same experience as when you’re not, though. You need to take more care and consider more things when you’re cycling during pregnancy. This article will go through everything you need to consider when deciding if riding a bike while pregnant is for you.
Generally, pedaling a bike when you’re pregnant is a safe and low-impact activity. Since cycling is an aerobic exercise, it’s great for maintaining fitness. Cycling carefully has minimal risks, but the biggest risk is falling.
The Trusted SourceExercise in pregnancy - NHS Exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to your baby. www.nhs.uk taking up cycling in pregnancy if you’re not already a cyclist, and it does stipulate to cycle with caution due to the risks of falling and the harm it could do to your unborn baby. That said, if you are already an experienced cyclist and only cycle on smooth terrain, you will be less prone to a fall.
If you decide to ride a bike while pregnant, make sure you choose the most appropriate terrain and have a bike that fits you well. If you’ve been riding a men’s bike until pregnancy, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to do so, but you might find a women’s bike more comfortable as your pregnancy progresses because they’re easier to get on and off.
You’re much more likely to fall when cycling on a road bike or mountain bike, but a stationary bike gets rid of the extra risk without losing the Trusted SourceBenefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review - PubMed The exercise modality that seems to induce a more favorable effect on maternal health is the combination of aerobic and resistance exercises during pregnancy. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov that boost your energy, stabilize your blood sugar, improve your circulation, and prepare your body for labor.
One of the most important things when cycling is to ensure you have the right equipment. If you’re cycling on a road or cycle path, you should have a road bike like this one. For bumpier or looser terrain, you should consider a gravel bike or a mountain bike like this one.
When you decide to cycle during pregnancy, it’s important to listen to your body before, during, and after your exercise. How you feel is the biggest indicator of what’s going on in your body. If you feel uncomfortable, you should slow down or stop if that doesn’t help. Equally, if you’re feeling tired, exercising might not be the best thing to do that day.
Remember, you don’t have to cycle. You might be an avid cyclist, but pregnancy is a time when a lot of things change in your body, and you might have to try something that’s more gentle or more comfortable, like swimming or walking, especially during the later stages of pregnancy when your bump is bigger, and the baby is lower in your pelvis.
When you’re pregnant, you will need even more fluids to keep you hydrated – not just because you’re bigger and you’re growing a baby, but because you sweat more too. You should also avoid cycling in very warm weather or ensure you have adequate ventilation when you’re using a stationary bike.
Pregnancy isn’t the time to try and increase fitness or go further and faster. Rather, you should concentrate on maintaining any fitness you have.
It’s not the time to go all-out with maximum effort. You should make sure your level of exertion is moderate at best. If you’re able to have a conversation while you’re cycling, your level is about right. You shouldn’t be able to sing at the top of your lungs – if you can, you need to work a little bit harder to get the most out of the exercise. Either increase the speed (if it’s safe to do so outdoors) or increase your resistance if you’re on a stationary bike. You need to feel a little bit out of breath without feeling utterly exhausted, like you need to stop.
You can, of course, still build up a sweat, and it’s important for you to raise your heart rate when you’re having a baby. Aerobic exercise is not only beneficial to your continued health and fitness but also useful to prepare you for labor too and is great for your mental well-being.
All pregnancies are different – even subsequent pregnancies. You might have one pregnancy where cycling was a breeze throughout yet a subsequent one where you can barely move off the couch.
Generally speaking, though, the first trimester of pregnancy is when you might not feel at all like getting on a bike. This is the time when lots of women suffer fatigue and morning sickness as the body works to establish the pregnancy with a sea of hormones and changes. If you feel like exercising during this time, it is fine to do so, but if you feel like laying down all the time, that’s fine too. However, you feel, listening to your body is the most important. Don’t be tempted to push through the fatigue or sickness just because someone you know managed to cycle all the way through their first trimester!
With the second trimester, it’s typical to feel more like yourself again. Often women find this is the time when they have the most energy and feel their best. The second trimester is when most people who enjoy cycling can get back in the saddle and enjoy a few invigorating biker rides. You will, however, have an altered center of gravity by now, so it’s important to adjust yourself and be wary of your new shape.
As your body grows and changes shape, you should expect yourself to be slower. With a growing belly, your lungs have less room for expansion, and you can’t get in as much oxygen as you used to. What’s more, your baby uses a lot of your energy as it grows. You’ll notice yourself taking longer to do the routes you used to do, so make sure you shorten them when you need to so that you’re not working too hard, especially as your pregnancy progresses.
Another thing to be wary of is your bike handling. Being heavy and bigger will impact this. You’ll need to ensure you leave more time to stop and slow down, and taking corners will be different too. During your final few months of pregnancy, it’s best to stick to gentle trails, open roads, and bike paths so that there are fewer hills and corners to contemplate.
With your bump getting bigger, you will likely have to make adjustments to your bike. Bending towards the handlebars becomes trickier and more uncomfortable as time goes on. Remember, you can raise your handlebars to get into a more comfortable position and be more upright. This will mean you sit more heavily, so you might want to invest in a wider, more comfortable saddle like those seen on comfort bikes where you sit up straighter.
Never underestimate how much energy you use up when you’re pregnant. It’s easy to stick to what you know and fuel your body in the same ways you always had, but your body needs so much more when you’re growing a baby.
You could plan your route to be close to shops or cafes for a rest and a bite to eat, or you could make sure you carry some healthy, filling snacks like cereal bars and bananas with you. Also, having a few sweet treats to hand might be useful for giving you a quick sugar boost.
Staying hydrated is essential too. You might have been able to cope without much water before, but during pregnancy, you need a lot more water day-to-day, especially when you’re exercising. This is because your body needs extra water to perform all the functions it needs to but also because you sweat more, and it is easier to overheat during pregnancy. With this in mind, make sure you carry double the amount of fluid compared to pre-pregnancy – and don’t cycle when it’s really hot.
When riding your bike becomes unpleasant or uncomfortable – either psychologically or physically – then stop. There are so many other ways of maintaining fitness during pregnancy that you don’t have to be a slave to your bike. Try a spin bike, a stationary bike, or even Zwift with your own bike and a stand. But if cycling seems out of the picture altogether, try hiking, walking, swimming, or dancing. The most important thing is to take time to maintain your health and well-being.
Any activity, including cycling, is great for pregnancy. With added hormones and stresses on your body, low mood and depression are common for many expectant mothers. Exercising and keeping active is a fantastic way of improving your mood and keeping your mind active and positive. So, can you ride a bike while pregnant? Absolutely.