Is Riding a Bike Safe While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman with a bicycle

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If you love riding your bike to work or along bike paths, you may be wondering if it's safe to ride a bike while pregnant. Whether you are concerned about the intensity of the exercise, the way pedaling brings your knees up toward your baby bump or even the risk of falling off your bike we have some good news.

Certified personal trainer and founder of Every Mother, Leah Keller, assures us, "Bike riding is a safe, low-impact option for aerobic exercise that can be enjoyed throughout the entire pregnancy."

There's no need to switch your commute method or change your exercise routine if a bicycle is your preferred choice. As long as you still feel like riding and your doctor says it's OK, it is safe to ride a bike while pregnant.

Bike riding while pregnant is not exactly the same thing as your usual bike riding, however. There are a few safety precautions to keep in mind if you choose to cycle while expecting. And remember, you should always check with your doctor to make sure that any kind of exercise is safe for you, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

Bike Riding While Pregnant

Overall, peddling a bike while pregnant is a safe, low-impact aerobic exercise to do while pregnant. "Generally speaking, the bio-mechanical risks associated with bike riding are minimal," Keller says.

The biggest risk involved with cycling while pregnant is the possibility of falling.

How prone you are to falling depends on a variety of factors, including the terrain, the traffic, and your level of experience. If bike riding is not something you took part in before you became pregnant, now is probably not a good time to start. In general, stick with aerobic exercises you are already familiar with when you are expecting.

When riding a bike, a helmet is the most important piece of protective gear you need, regardless of whether you're pregnant or not. Falls while bike riding can leave you with some nasty cuts and bruises as well as a head injury.

Accidental falls also may hurt your baby and can even cause miscarriage, so it is worth considering whether you feel comfortable continuing this type of exercise. The good news is, you can get the same physical benefits from a stationary bicycle while greatly reducing your risk of falling.

If you do decide to ride a bike while pregnant—and your doctor gives the OK—you will want to take whatever precautions necessary to protect your developing child from a potential fall. The main way to do that is to reduce your risk of falling, whether that is by choosing flat terrain, making sure your bike fits you properly or deciding to stop when you feel begin to feel off-balance later in pregnancy.

Stationary Bikes

Keller says that stationary bike riding is a suitable alternative for pregnant people. She also says it's a "safer option that offers the same cardiovascular and low-impact benefits of cycling with essentially no risk of falling."

Both the environment and your changing body add to your risk of falling on a road or mountain bike, but with a stationary bike, those factors all but disappear. Like outdoor bike riding, stationary bike riding also can help stabilize blood sugar, improve circulation, boost energy, and prepare you to have both stamina and strength for labor.

Safety Precautions

Because any fall can cause abdominal trauma, Keller generally advises against outdoor cycling during pregnancy, saying that indoor cycling is a safer choice.

"Even an experienced cyclist faces new balance and stability challenges during pregnancy due to a rapidly changing center of gravity and ligament laxity. Outdoor cycling presents many risks beyond our control - such as traffic, a sudden change of weather that could make familiar terrain more treacherous, unpredictable pedestrians, and other cyclists," she says.

Whether you choose to hit the road or a stationary bike, remember that as with any kind of physical activity throughout your pregnancy, it is important to read your body's cues and listen to what it is telling you. If something feels uncomfortable, stop or slow down.

"Sometimes cycling can become less comfortable if you are carrying low, or if the baby has dropped lower in the pelvis toward the end of the pregnancy," Keller explains. If this is the case, you may feel more comfortable replacing cycling with walking or swimming as alternative forms of safe, low impact aerobic activity, she says.

Staying hydrated also is vital for both your health and the baby's when you are pregnant, so take extra care to drink enough fluids when biking. Keller also suggests cycling in a well-ventilated area if you choose to stick with stationary bike riding.  

Pregnancy may not be the time to push yourself to ride your fastest or farthest.

Instead of maximizing your efforts, Keller advises keeping your exertion intensity moderate. "A good self-check on intensity level is the 'talk test,'" she says. "If you can carry on a light conversation while cycling, that is a good sign you are not overdoing the intensity."

Being pregnant doesn't mean you can't work up a sweat, though. It's actually beneficial to get your heart pumping regularly while you're expecting. Aerobic exercise is beneficial to your health and it is an important type of exercise to get when you are pregnant.

"If you could sing an opera while riding [a stationary bike], you could pedal a little bit harder," Keller says. Again, you probably don't want to push yourself on a regular bike due to the risk of falling.

Mindfully increase either your speed or your resistance to boost your benefit from a stationary bike workout if you feel like you're not pushing yourself enough to get the cardiovascular exercise you need. "Striving for that sweet spot of feeling slightly winded yet still invigorated is ideal," says Keller.

Other Considerations

Biking is a low-impact aerobic exercise, but external factors like rough terrain should be considered when you are expecting. To keep your baby and yourself safe, Keller says, "Make sure you feel in control of your body at all times and avoid pedaling so fast that you bounce in the seat."

Keller notes that making sure your bike fits properly and is well maintained can help keep prevent falls or muscle stiffness from riding in an awkward position. Warming up and cooling down, as well as pacing yourself throughout the ride are also important parts of safe bike riding, but these factors are even more important to take into account during pregnancy.

"[If you're riding a stationary bike,] warm up with a light ride to begin, and challenge yourself to work hard in small bursts with active, light recovery between the harder intervals," Keller suggests. "End with an easy cool down to allow your heart rate to gradually decrease, and enjoy some gentle stretches after you finish."

What If Bike Riding Isn't Working?

If you are uncomfortable when you ride or for any reason biking just doesn't feel right, you may want to stop biking. You can always start riding again when you are no longer pregnant.

If you still want to get the positive physical benefits that riding a bike provides, you can switch to another form of low-impact aerobic exercise for the duration of your pregnancy. Swimming, walking, and yoga all offer the same positive benefits as biking.

A Word From Verywell

Riding a bike is a good way to get exercise when you are pregnant, but you may not feel comfortable with the fall risk. If you love zooming down trails on your bike and indoor cycling just does not make you feel inspired, take heart.

You can always get back into outdoor biking after your baby is born, and depending on where you live, you may be able to take your little one along as early as 1 year old. A stationary bike can help keep you in shape until then.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.