How to exercise during pregnancy

How to Exercise During Pregnancy

How to Exercise in the First, Second, and Third Trimesters of Pregnancy Safely

As a certified personal fitness trainer and mother of 2 (with one on the way) I get asked a lot, “How do YOU exercise during pregnancy?” In addition to, “How do you exercise safely during pregnancy?” As well as, “What exercises should I avoid during pregnancy?”

The scope of this post is to clarify each of those things. First how I myself exercise during pregnancy, to give you a guideline as well as some inspiration and ideas.

It is also very important that we touch on how to exercise safely during pregnancy and specifically what exercises you should avoid while pregnant.

**This post probably contains affiliate links to items that I own and love and am confident will benefit you immensely. Please read full disclosure here.**


how to safely exercise during pregnancy pin


Why it is Vitally Important to Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy was taboo 100 years ago. Women were told to rest, not lift things, and were considered to be in “a condition.” Man am I glad we have science to get us past those ancient thoughts!

Now working out during pregnancy is not only thought of as “ok,” it is highly recommended. (As long as you don’t suffer from any specific contraindications.)

The list of benefits to not only the mother’s health but the baby’s health too is huge!

Always consult your trusted physician prior to beginning any new exercise regime.

The Benefits of Prenatal Exercise for Mom

  • Exercise helps you sleep better!
  • Exercising increases your energy! Even though pregnancy is exhausting, believe it or not squeezing in that 15-minute workout can actually INCREASE your energy levels.
  • Exercise is a powerful mood booster! Exercise naturally releases endorphins (the happy hormone).
  • Prenatal exercise can reduce constipation, a common pregnancy symptom!
  • Regular exercise can help you gain just the right amount of pregnancy weight!
  • Prenatal exercise can actually make labor easier by prepping your body for the rigorous journey ahead.
  • Pregnancy causes pain (think your back and hips) and the correct exercises can help relieve that!
  • Women who participated in regular exercise had lower risks of pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes (according to one study)


Benefits of Prenatal Exercise for Baby

  • It’s likely that exercise during pregnancy causes the baby to gain less weight, having closer to an average birthweight. (Varying birth sizes are also due to genetics and mothers diet as well.)
  • It’s possible that exercise during pregnancy can reduce your baby’s odds of contracting diabetes and of excessive weight gain throughout their lives.
  • Maternal exercise during pregnancy may increase your child’s cognitive function.
  • A recent study on the effects of exercise during pregnancy demonstrated that maternal exercise during pregnancy has a direct positive impact on your baby’s vascular health as an adult!


How a Personal Fitness Trainer Exercises During Pregnancy

I’ve been a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer off and on for about a decade. I specialize in helping moms get back into shape postpartum, but have more recently become very passionate about guiding prenatal exercise as well.

Each of my pregnancies I’ve gained the recommended average amount of baby weight (35 pounds for myself based on my prepregnancy body weight) and lost it again by 6 weeks postpartum.

Well, this third pregnancy I’m only halfway through, but so far I’m on target to do the same.

RELATED: How to Gain Only the Recommended Amount of Baby Weight

You know the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym?” That’s sort of the same when it comes to pregnancy.

Your abs are going to stretch and grow regardless of what you do during pregnancy, but the amount of weight you gain, where you gain it, and how you physically feel carrying that weight are primarily determined by what you eat and secondly by how active you are. Check out 7 Perfect Pregnancy Breakfasts and 5 Foods you Should Definitely be Eating to Grow a Healthy Baby to get on the right track.

Now I think my next post needs to be “how I eat during pregnancy,” but I digress.


The 4 Tricks I Personally Use with Prenatal Exercise

pregnant woman exercising

  1. I make sure to exercise the recommended amount or MORE during pregnancy!

    Pregnant women can benefit from up to 30 minutes of exercise each day through each trimester of pregnancy according to the American Pregnancy Association. Performing less exercise is still highly beneficial. In fact, 150 minutes a week is often seen as ideal. The high 30 minutes a day number recommended by the APA (coming to 3 1/2 hours per week) doesn’t refer to vigorous exercise! That ideal vigorous to moderate exercise range is closer to 150 minutes per week. It instead refers to the amount of recommended time being active. Defining exercise as light as a brisk walk.

  2. I change up my routine often!

    I have lots and lots of different routines lined up to choose from for two reasons. First off, pregnancy is exhausting. Especially the first trimester! I could sleep 10 hours and then was ready for a nap after 2 more. With lots of different types of routines to choose from I can be sure to still get in my workout despite my energy level. Second reason being, your body is changing daily during pregnancy. Some days your back might ache, you could have a headache, or your hips might be so loose any vigorous motion pinches.

    It’s great to have different types of exercise you are ready to do and different pieces of affordable home-gym equipment available to accommodate. Once again, it takes out the excuses and gets the workout done anyways.

  3. I use Youtube and Fitness Channels!

    I love creating my own fitness routines and usually, I do just that. However, pregnancy can zap your energy and motivation, to say the least. It’s really important to have a few favorite YouTube channels on hand or pick up a guided Prenatal Workout video series or Leisa Hart’s Fit Mama prenatal workout DVD. Right now on YouTube I’m following PopSugar Fitness for when I want something new and upbeat and Boho Beautiful for when I want challenging yoga. Most if not all of their workouts are not geared specifically for pregnancy, so be sure the routines you pick or exercises you choose to complete eliminate the no-no exercises I’ll be covering in a bit.

  4. I always work on my core and pelvic floor!

    If I am getting in a 20-minute workout, at least 5 minutes is devoted to pregnancy-safe core strengthening or pelvic floor strengthening. Adding these components to each of your prenatal workouts is vitally important. Your entire body is going to go through changes, strain, and stress throughout pregnancy; but none compares to what your core and pelvic floor will go through.

    Add in kegel exercises as well as pelvic floor restoring exercises before, after, or within any exercise routine you do. Or add in physical therapy recommended core strengthening exercises. I don’t do both with each workout routine, I typically pick pelvic floor one day and core the following.

    It is especially important to adequately strengthen the core and specifically the transverse abdominus during the first trimester. To be honest, the best and easiest exercises to first begin strengthening that area are performed lying on your back, which becomes a no-no later in pregnancy.

    So work on strengthening your core NOW so you can continue to support that growing belly.

What Types of Workouts to Avoid During Pregnancy

prenatal exercise class

Now that we know exercise is so highly recommended during pregnancy that you should be doing it every day, let’s learn what we shouldn’t be doing!

Because exercise during pregnancy IS NOT LIKE exercising any other time. So typically your first trimester really isn’t too bad, your body hasn’t changed too much and if you’ve already been exercising regularly, you’re probably ok to continue with the same type of exercises.

But as your ligaments begin stretching, your joints begin loosening, your weight increases, your endurance decreases, and your balance wanes, exercise becomes quite a bit different.

Exercises to stay away from when pregnant:

  • Avoid ballistic movements and high jumping.
  • Avoid traditional planks after the first trimester. Planks put an extreme amount of pressure on your abdomen. Your baby is putting a bunch of pressure on your abdomen. Adding the 2 together can cause or exacerbate diastasis recti. So modify your planks!
  • Avoid traditional pushups as well. For the same exact reason as planks. Modify those pushups or just replace with a different exercise.
  • Avoid traditional crunches. You guessed it! Same reason as above. Stick to entirely different core strengthening moves.
  • Be careful not to overheat, this endangers both mother and baby. Skip the hot yoga and exercising in extreme heat.
  • Be even more aware than usual of staying hydrated! You need extra hydration during pregnancy period.
  • Avoid exercising flat on your back after 12 weeks of pregnancy. This puts pressure on the vena cava and can cause dizziness or fainting. Modify exercises that you would normally perform lying down by placing a bolster underneath you. For some women this symptom comes as early as 12 weeks, others not until 16, and some never feel it at all. Listen to your body.
  • No scuba diving.
  • Avoid contact sports and extreme sports that could cause an impact to your belly.
  • Don’t hold your breath while working out! AKA the valsava maneuver.
  • Be cautious with HIIT. If you have been doing HIIT workouts already they are most likely safe for at least the first trimester (modified somewhat for excessive jumping, etc.) But as pregnancy progresses you will need to take extra breaks and recovery periods to keep your heart rate at a safe place, in addition to making other modifications.

How to Exercise Safely During Pregnancy?

Safety is the primary importance when exercising during pregnancy. Keep in mind the tips above and avoid any dangerous exercises for these next 9 months.

The Benefits of Prenatal Exercise and How to Do it Safely breaks down exactly how to be sure you’re are exercising safely during pregnancy. There are amazing tips there about things called the Talk Test and RPE that can help you keep all of your pregnancy workouts safe.


Wrapping Up How to Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy can be hard. Some days you’ll be exhausted. Many days you will be sore. And then there are days when you just plain old don’t feel like it.

Use my personal four secret favorite tricks and get that workout in anyways! It makes it so much easier when you have something to follow along to, and variety.

It really is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your growing baby, so stay active mama! You can do it! And always feel free to reach out with any questions or if you’re looking for some support through comments of email.

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