Maintaining a routine by exercising while you’re pregnant is a great idea. But learning how to distinguish what is considered safe during each trimester will be key to keeping you and your baby healthy.
When you’re pregnant, exercising will benefit you and your baby. In addition to keeping your body healthy, if you exercise while pregnant, you may lower your risk for preeclampsia and prenatal depression. Exercising can also leave you feeling more energetic, prevent back pain, and get your body better prepared for childbirth. But before you start a workout program, talk to your physician to learn about safety precautions to protect you and your baby during each stage of your pregnancy.
Exercise While Pregnant: What Do Doctors Recommend?
Pregnancy isn’t the time to push yourself when you exercise. So listen to your body, and if a certain exercises make you uncomfortable, stop doing them. To protect your health, follow these safety precautions during the entirety of your pregnancy:
- During exercise, blood naturally flows from your organs to your heart, lungs, and the muscles you’re working. But strenuous exercise may restrict the flow of blood and oxygen away from your uterus. If you are short of breath, your baby is also having a difficult time breathing. Talk to your doctor about the recommended heart rate level for you.
- Do not perform exercises while lying flat on your back, as these exercises can also restrict blood flow to your uterus.
- To prevent injuries, warm up before you begin exercising and cool down afterward. As you work out, take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated.
- As you exercise, monitor how warm you feel. While breaking a sweat is okay, keep your body temperature under 101°F and avoid exercising in hot weather.
- While weight training may be a beneficial exercise while pregnant, avoid straining your lower back or lifting weights over your head.
- Your natural center of gravity shifts during pregnancy. Practice activities that minimize your risk of slipping or falling, such as walking, swimming, or low-impact workouts and avoid activities like horseback riding, contact sports, skiing, or hiking on difficult trails.
What Exercises are Safe During My First Trimester?
During your first trimester, you can continue your normal exercise routine as long as your doctor says it’s safe. At this stage, you can still lie on your back and belly for brief periods to do exercises that strengthen your legs, glutes, and core muscles, which support your back and help maintain balance.
If you are a runner, you may continue this exercise until it feels uncomfortable. Otherwise, walking or prenatal yoga are a better options.
Beneficial exercises that are safe to do during the first trimester include:
- Ab lifts
What Exercise is Okay During My Second Trimester?
During the second trimester, your heart naturally works harder to pump blood. If you were doing a cardio routine during your first trimester, cut back on its intensity by 20-30%.
If you like riding your bike, switch to a stationary bike because your balance may be compromised at this stage.
To avoid feeling lightheaded, do not perform inversion exercises, such as the “downward dog” yoga pose.
In the second trimester, try doing exercises that strengthen your body, such as:
- Kegel exercises
- Standing crunches
- Leg lifts
- Prenatal yoga
Can I Still Exercise During My Third Trimester?
During the third trimester, you are more vulnerable to falls and joint injuries. So give your joints a break by doing activities like swimming.
If you like to lift weights, you may need to avoid those that weigh 15 pounds or more and remain seated while performing free-weight exercises.
Exercises that you can perform during the third trimester include:
- Seated cable rows
- Leg curls
- Leg extensions
- Lateral shoulder raises
- Bicep curls
Before you exercise while pregnant, talk to your doctor at The Woman’s Clinic. Every woman’s health during each stage of pregnancy varies, and your obstetrician will be able to offer you the best recommendations. Schedule an appointment if you have questions about which exercises are safe for you and your baby.
*photo courtesy of Ivan Clow through Flikr