Staying Fit Throughout Your Pregnancy

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was so terrified to work out. I had always been pretty active (barre was my favorite class), but I had it my mind that I was going to hurt the baby if I did anything outside of walking. That couldn’t have been further from the truth - my doctor not only cleared me for exercise but encouraged me to continue my routine.  Working out for me became the one constant in a time where everything was changing. I continued my favorite class postpartum, and when I found out I was pregnant with my second, I had even more of a reason to continue.

Here’s what you need to know about fitness throughout your pregnancy. As with everything in your life right now, now is not to the time to push yourself beyond your limits and always talk to your doctor about your current and future fitness routine.

The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Staying fit during pregnancy provides so many physical and mental benefits. Experts have been studying the benefits and highlight the following:

  1. Decrease in fatigue and improved energy levels
  2. Better posture, muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  3. Decreased risk of gestational diabetes & long-term obesity
  4. Improved strength for labor and delivery
  5. Reduced backaches
  6. Reduced bloating and swelling
  7. Boost in mood as the release of endorphins diminishes stress and anxiety
  8. Improved sleep
  9. Relief from constipation
  10. Improved recovery from childbirth

Top Exercises to Continue Throughout Pregnancy

30-60 minutes of low impact activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.

  • Brisk walk
  • Swimming
  • Running (if this was a part of your routine pre-pregnancy),
  • Yoga, Pilates, Barre (I personally love Pop Physique and kept this in my routine throughout both pregnancies)
  • Indoor stationary cycling
  • Step or elliptical machines
  • Low-impact aerobics

Also, experts say moves that assist with stabilization, posture alignment, strengthening the pelvic floor, and core support are also great throughout pregnancy.

  • Cat/cow
  • Spinal balance
  • Good mornings
  • Planks (good until the belly touches the floor!)
  • Bridges (up until the second trimester)
  • Squats
  • Traditional dumbbell strength exercises (shoulder upright rows, lateral raises, rows, biceps curls, triceps extensions, pushups, either on the floor or with hands against the wall)

Fitness tips for every trimester

First Trimester:

  • Get the OK from your doctor and don’t plan to start any new activities.
  • Drink lots of water before, during and after your workout - dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus.
  • Invest in comfy clothes, shoes and a sports bra that will support your growing body.
  • Listen to your body and modify your workouts as needed.
  • Avoid contact sports or activities that put you at risk for falling such as rock climbing or horseback riding.

Second Trimester

  • As your belly grows, your center of gravity begins to shift making you a little less stable than you were before, so be careful with any balancing or running activities.  
  • Modify workouts by slowing down your pace, lift lighter loads, do alternative moves (to avoid lying on your belly as well as extreme twisting)
  • Stay hydrated and keep cool
  • Stretch lower back and hips since you can carry pain here around this time.

Third Trimester

  • Your expanding belly is likely making it harder to carry on with most of your usual activities. Now, it’s more important than ever to listen to your body and modify or stop some of your activities.
  • Don’t feel like you need to give up exercise altogether though just because it’s getting a little more difficult. Walking, swimming and yoga are great activities to continue through delivery. These activities help to keep your body loose and strong. It’s also nice to get up and moving a little.

Exercises to avoid

  • Activities that force you to hold your breath
  • Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding)
  • Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball
  • Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running
  • Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches
  • Waist-twisting movements while standing

When to Stop

If you have any of the following symptoms before, during or after a workout, take them as warning signs to stop and call your doctor or midwife.

  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions
  • Fluid leaking from your vagina
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Rapid heartbeat while at rest

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