What to Know About Indoor Cycling When Pregnant

Pregnant woman spinning

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Spinning is a great way to stay active during pregnancy, but is it safe? In fact, spinning has many benefits and very few risks when you have a baby on the way.

Indoor cycling has risen in popularity over the past year or two, in part because of all of COVID-related gym closures. More and more households have added a stationary bike to the guest room or in a corner of the garage.

When you are expecting, you may be more than happy to be able to stay home for your workout and end it whenever you feel done. As gyms open, some pregnant women will prefer spinning in an in-person class, and that is fine too. Either way, indoor cycling is a low-impact and very safe way to workout while pregnant.

We reached out to the experts to learn more about spinning while pregnant.

Is Spinning Safe While Pregnant?

Overall, spinning is considered a safe and beneficial way to get some cardiovascular exercise while you are expecting. It is low-impact so your joints are protected, and safer than road biking since there no unexpected bumps in the road or hazards like cars, other people, flat tires, or rain to deal with.

Alan Lindemann, M.D. co-author of "Modern Medicine: What You're Dying to Know," who has delivered over 6,000 babies in his 40 years of practice, notes that while he advises against road biking during pregnancy, he highly recommends indoor cycling.

That said, he also mentioned it is not generally advised to start any new exercise program while you are pregnant. "If you didn't cycle before you were pregnant, now is not the time to start a cycling regimen," he explains.

When you are carrying a developing baby, it is important to be aware of your body's changing limits. Some spinning programs can be very intense, and this can be unsafe if you don't adjust as necessary. "Use the 'carry a conversation' rule," Kate Roddy, a pelvic physiotherapist advises. "If you can’t carry a conversation [while spinning], you’re likely going too hard."

If you are concerned that the motion of peddling might hurt your baby, Dr. Lindemann assures that this is not an issue unless you're expecting triples or more. "The real issue is blood supply to your legs while peddling because some of the increase in blood supply to your legs might be stolen from your uterus," he says. "So limit heart rate and duration to 15 to 20 minutes."

Pros of Spinning While Pregnant:
  • Low-impact aerobic exercise

  • No rode hazards like bumps or collisions

  • Easy to dial it up or down depending on your trimester or how you’re 
    feeling

  • Fit can be modified to accommodate you changing body

  • Workouts can be as short or long as you like

  • You can stop your workout and you are already home (if you own your stationary bike)

Cons of Spinning While Pregnant:
  • Bike seats can be uncomfortable

  • Leaning forward can put strain on the lower back

  • Can be expensive to buy a stationary bike or join a gym

  • Difficult to get off and stop if you have to use the bathroom

Which Trimester Is Best for Spinning During Pregnancy?

All [trimesters are best for spinning] if you listen to your body and make the appropriate 
bike-fit modifications as your belly grows," Roddy notes. That said, it is always advised to check with your doctor, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

"During exercise, keep the maternal heart rate below 130 beats during the first and second trimesters," Dr. Lindemann says. "During the third trimester, keep the maternal heart rate below 120."

Roddy suggests the following adjustments to your workout based on which trimester you are in:

  • First trimester: Light resistance, longer duration.
  • Second trimester: Lower cadence, higher resistance, hill workouts. You may feel a surge of energy in your second trimester, but continue to monitor your heart rate and ensure you can carry on a short conversation while exercising.
  • Third trimester: Quick, easy rides just to keep your body moving. Nothing strenuous unless you’ve spoken to your birth provider and you’re a seasoned cycler. Keep your rides short if your pelvic floor is feeling tender.

How to Safely Spin When Pregnant

There a few things you can do to make sure you keep yourself and your developing baby safe if you choose to cycle during the gestational period. Roddy advises getting the green light from your birth provider before engaging in any kind of strenuous exercise. She also suggests drinking a full cup of water before hopping on your bike and adding some electrolytes to your water bottle.

"The baby steals [electrolytes] and you sweat easier when pregnant so add them back into your body while riding," she explained. (Just be aware that you may need to pee during the ride, and that's okay!)

Roddy also emphasizes the importance of body position while spinning. She suggested taking a photo or video of yourself on your bike so you can see what your body looks like in your current setup. Make sure your posture is straight and your knees slightly bent.

Lastly, Roddy advises that if you ever feeling dizzy while spinning, stop immediately. The last thing you want to do is pass out and fall off your bike!

Can Spinning While Pregnant Affect Your Pelvic Floor?

Spinning can actually make your pelvic floor tighten up if your seat is not fitted properly, and this can be more extreme during pregnancy. "Sitting on your pelvic floor muscles can result in tension or protective guarding," Roddy says, explaining that, "as your pregnancy progresses, these muscles are already working overtime to keep the growing weight of your baby supported."

If your spinning does not seem to agree with your pelvic floor muscles, you can try other types of low-impact exercise (like swimming or walking). But if you are set on staying in the saddle, you can also work with a pelvic physical therapist to learn how to relax and release these muscles with perineal massage. "It can be a game-changer," Roddy says, adding that a pair of bike shorts or a gel-seat cover can also make it more comfortable. 

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