What Exercises Can I Do While Pregnant?

Even if you have a bun in the oven, your body can reap the benefits of exercise.

Pregnant woman drinking glass of water while exercising on yoga mat.

Morning sickness, mood swings, aching backs, swelling—pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. The last thing you probably feel like doing is adding the discomfort of exercise.

Being pregnant and exercising may seem impossible and the last thing you’d like to do during your pregnancy. The idea of lifting a weight or going on a run or fast walk probably doesn’t sound like a good use of time, especially as you’re experiencing the symptoms of pregnancy.

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Exercise can actually relieve many of the unpleasant symptoms you might be experiencing. Some of the many benefits of routine exercise are decreasing any back pain you’re experiencing; reducing your risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and cesarean birth; helping you maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy; and being the key to losing weight after your baby is born.

However, before starting any exercise regime, it’s wise to talk to your healthcare provider. Depending on your current health and pregnancy state, you may be advised to only do light exercise or avoid it altogether.

There are certain conditions that will require you to limit exercise or not do it at all. This is to protect you from experiencing preterm labor or placing you and your baby in harm’s way.

If you have any of the following conditions, your healthcare provider may encourage you not to exercise:

  • Heart and lung diseases
  • Cerclage (when the cervix is surgically closed to avoid opening from the pressure of the growing pregnancy)
  • Pregnant with twins or triplets
  • Placenta previa (when the placenta has attached to either the bottom of the uterus, over or near the cervix, making vaginal births highly difficult)
  • Experienced preterm labor or ruptured membranes
  • Pre-eclampsia (when the mother has high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in the urine)
  • Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia (when the blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body which is commonly caused by a lack of iron)

If you do get the green light for physical activity, talk to your healthcare provider about safe exercises. Keep in mind that even if you’re cleared to exercise, you’ll want to proceed with caution. You’ll want to stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any discomforts like

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain, swelling, or redness
  • Ankle, hands, or face swelling
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Reduced body movement

Exercises by trimester

First trimester

Miscarriage often happens during the first trimester of pregnancy. It can be a nerve-racking time, but exercise has thankfully not been linked to pregnancy loss. In fact, there are numerous benefits to getting your heart rate up even during the early stages of pregnancy like lowering stress levels.

Start slow and work up to what feels comfortable. After all, you might be feeling the most fatigued and nauseated during these first 12 weeks.

A few exercises suggested during the first trimester are:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming (which is considered one of the most beneficial and safe full-body exercises for expectant mothers.)
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Weightlifting

Second trimester

You might be getting your energy back at this point in pregnancy. You can continue to do all the exercises that are mentioned above, and any others that get your heart pumping. You should stick to low impact (meaning limited jumps or jarring movements). Some options include:

  • HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training) with low impact alterations
  • Running (aim for 30 minutes per day)
  • Spinning or indoor cycling
  • Light weightlifting (while standing up, not lying down)

Third trimester

With your belly about to pop, keep at it with the low-impact and low-intensity workouts for the remaining months until your little one arrives. Keeping up with exercise at this point can still help you maintain a healthy weight and regulate blood pressure.

It’s best to avoid exercises that involve jumping, skipping, or bouncing (leave the bouncing to your baby). Stick with exercises like these:

  • Walking or light jogging
  • Water aerobics
  • Yoga, barre, or other muscle-targeting exercises
  • Toning moves like squats or engaging in moves with light dumbbells

Exercise can keep you and your little bun healthy and happy. But remember, always clear exercises with your healthcare provider before attempting any workouts.

Related: Give Your Baby a Healthy Start by Joining Our Healthy Beginnings Program

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