Are you an avid runner or a casual walker? Is yoga your favorite way to exercise and unwind? Or, is a leisurely bike ride around the neighborhood more your speed?
No matter your pre-pregnancy activities, you want to make sure that any exercise you do during pregnancy is done safely.
If you and your pregnancy are healthy, you can work out while pregnant. You just might need to make some modifications, especially as you get further along.
Here you’ll find general guidance for exercising while pregnant, as well as workout tips for each trimester and activities you should avoid until after baby arrives.
What you should keep in mind when you’re exercising while pregnant
Moderate exercise is safe for most pregnant women, but make sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Stay at your pre-pregnancy fitness level (and modify as needed)
Staying active is good for both you and your baby. So, if the exercises you were doing before you became pregnant are still comfortable, keep doing them. But it’s also fine if you have to modify or tone down some things.
You may not feel up to your regular workouts because of your early pregnancy symptoms. And as your belly gets bigger, certain exercises like sit-ups won’t be possible.
Make sure your body has fuel for your prenatal workouts
Typically, pregnant women need to eat around 300 extra calories per day in their second and third trimester to support their growing baby. But if exercise is part of your routine, you may need to eat additional calories to make sure you and baby are getting the fuel you need.
No matter how often you work out or the type of exercise, it’s really important to have a pre-workout snack or juice 15 to 30 minutes before. This boost of energy can help you have a good workout. Exercising on an empty stomach when you’re pregnant can cause you to feel sluggish, dizzy or lightheaded, which can increase the risk for injury.
Are there pre-workouts for pregnancy?
Many traditional pre-workout supplements contain caffeine – that’s what helps give you a little energy boost. But as a result, they’re often not recommended when you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor about what they may recommend.
Stay hydrated and avoid overheating
Pregnant women should generally be drinking around eight to 10 glasses of water per day. And if you’re exercising, you’re going to need more.
This means drinking fluids not just during exercise, but before and after, too. And if you start to feel too hot or dehydrated during a workout, take a break.
Try pregnancy safe exercises
You have a lot of options when it comes to staying active during pregnancy. If there’s a specific activity you have in mind, ask your doctor about it.
Safe exercises during pregnancy
With a few small exceptions, the following are some of the activities you can do all the way through pregnancy:
- Walking – During pregnancy, walking is an easy, effective way to stay active. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. Plus, it’s a great way to get outside and decompress, whether that means listening to music, a podcast or your own thoughts. It can be a change of pace, literally.
- Swimming and water aerobics – Both swimming and water aerobics are ideal options throughout pregnancy. They allow you to get full-body, aerobic workouts in while pregnant. And being in the water even gives you a break from the added weight of your growing baby.
- Low-impact dance classes – If you’re looking for a way to switch up your cardio routine, dancing can be the perfect way to liven up your workouts – especially if you find walking boring. The upbeat energy of a group dance class can boost your mood. But as your belly expands, your balance will likely be affected. So, dance classes may be best kept to your first trimester.
- Prenatal yoga and Pilates – While yoga and Pilates also rely on balance, both can be modified at each stage of pregnancy. Both promote flexibility, relaxation, good posture and core strength, all of which are especially useful during pregnancy. Classes designed for pregnant women are fairly common, but you can also ask an instructor for modified moves that are safe for you.
- Lifting (light) weights – Strength training is one of the best ways to condition your muscles to support your changing body before and after baby arrives. Use weights that you can lift for around 13 repetitions or more. Dumbbells and kettlebells are both good choices. Alternatively, gym machines can lock you into a specific range of motion for extra protection against injuries.
How much can you lift while pregnant?
How much you can safely lift while pregnant will depend on several different factors, including your pre-pregnancy fitness level, whether lifting is part of your job, how far along you are and more. Talk with your doctor to determine what will be best for you.
Listen to your body when exercising while pregnant
You know your body is going to change a lot during pregnancy. So, it’s probably no surprise that you’ll be slowing down a bit. Fortunately, your body will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
For example, if you’re feeling tired, stick to leisurely walks until you get some of your energy back. And as we mentioned before, once your sense of balance starts to change, that’s a signal to avoid or modify certain activities.
Because your body is already working so hard, pregnancy also isn’t the time to push yourself. Don’t exercise to the point of tiredness. Again, most women can exercise safely while pregnant, but stop and call your doctor if you notice any sudden or unusual symptoms during exercise like:
- Excessive fatigue, breathlessness or dizziness
- A pounding heartbeat or unusual sensations in your chest
- Pain or cramping, especially around your back or pelvis
- Vaginal bleeding
- Persistent contractions
How much exercise do you need when you’re pregnant?
For healthy pregnant women, aiming for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise per week is generally a good target. You can break your 2 ½ hours up any way that’s comfortable for you. You may find that 30 minutes, five days a week works well, or that shorter or longer blocks are more your style.
Moderate exercise gets your heart rate up, and it may cause you to sweat a little. But remember that you don’t want to tire yourself out. You’re only aiming to maintain your fitness, not increase it.
Sports and exercises to avoid during pregnancy
Certain activities aren’t safe for you or your baby during pregnancy. Along with activities that rely on balance, avoid any activities that carry risks of injury or overheating, or that alter your oxygen intake. This includes:
- Contact sports like ice hockey or boxing, or collision sports such as soccer or basketball that put you at risk for getting hit in the abdomen
- Activities that may lead to a fall such as downhill skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, and horseback or motorcycle riding
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Scuba diving
- “Hot yoga” and “hot Pilates” (which are done in hot rooms)
Can exercise cause miscarriage?
There’s no evidence that exercise causes miscarriage. However, if you have a history of miscarriages, your doctor may recommend you avoid certain exercises or activities during your first trimester.
Workout tips for each trimester of pregnancy
First trimester workout tips
During the first trimester of pregnancy, you can continue with your pre-pregnancy exercise routines. Of course, you may want to take it easy for the first few weeks if you’re experiencing symptoms such as morning sickness or fatigue.
And if this is your first time working regular exercise into your daily life, start slow. It’s perfectly fine to start with walking and work your way up to other activities.
Second trimester workout tips
Once you hit the second trimester of your pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid exercises like sit-ups and some yoga poses that require you to lie flat on your back on a hard surface. The increasing size and weight of your uterus can press on the large blood vessel that returns blood from your lower body to your heart.
Your second trimester is also when your joints can start to loosen up. This extra flexibility can increase your risk of injury. So, if you were still doing any high-impact activities in your first trimester, now is the time to switch to low-impact ones. This means choosing prenatal workouts and exercises that don’t involve jumping, sudden changes in direction or other movements that put a lot of pressure on your joints.
Third trimester workout tips
Those second trimester tips become even more important during your third trimester. You may also find that you’ve got less energy than you did during your second trimester. So, you may have to scale back your exercise to match. Walking and swimming when pregnant are especially good options for third trimester workouts and can help you stay active right up to your due date.
Get into your rhythm
Staying healthy and active during your pregnancy really comes down to safety. Don’t push yourself to move beyond your current level of fitness or if you’re feeling tired or icky. Your body is doing a lot of work. Your goal should be to condition it and fuel it with energy.
If you have any questions about safely working out while pregnant, give your clinic’s nurse line a call or talk with your doctor at your next prenatal appointment.