7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as an editor at a parenting magazine and I received a book about how to have a healthy pregnancy and there was a chapter devoted to safe pregnancy exercises.

At that time, I was teaching Spinning classes and running a few days a week. Since I had previously had a miscarriage however, my doctor suggested that I back off my workouts until I was 12 weeks pregnant and in the “safe zone.”

I knew the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and the importance of staying active, but without my favorite workouts, I needed to find something that was safe and I could do throughout my pregnancy.

During the first trimester, as my belly started to grow and morning sickness kicked in, I found that I was more tired, had less endurance and my balance wasn’t as strong.

So although I tried to start running again, it just wasn’t happening. Instead, I relied on walking, weight training, prenatal yoga, and some simple stretches and core exercises.

Whether you’re in the best shape of your life, or just starting out on an exercise journey, there are tons of safe pregnancy exercises and workouts to help you have a healthy pregnancy. 

 

 

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Although exercise doesn’t increase your risk for miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery, there are certain conditions like placenta previa and preeclampsia that would make exercise off limits.

Always check with your OB/GYN or midwife first before exercising, even if it’s your normal workout.

 

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

According to a September 2016 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 60 percent of women don’t get enough exercise, even when activities like walking to the store are included.

Yet with so many benefits of pregnancy exercise, it’s a win-win for you and your baby.

Healthier babies
Studies show pregnant women who exercise give birth to children who are healthier during infancy and beyond.

In fact, an August 2019 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found newborns whose moms exercise during pregnancy are more adept at movement and are potentially more likely to be active throughout their lives, which can reduce their risk for childhood obesity.

Lower risk of pregnancy complications
According to a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise during pregnancy strengthens women’s heart and blood vessels and may reduce their risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent.

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have caesarean sections.

Fights fatigue
Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

Prevents pregnancy constipation
Constipation is one of the most annoying side effects of pregnancy and it’s quite common—between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with it.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet, but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary so it’s a good idea to carve out time for exercise most days of the week. 

Eases aches and pains
Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are all common during pregnancy.

 

Improves sleep
When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with the stress and anxiety that might be keeping you awake.

One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

Shorter labor, faster recovery from childbirth
Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

Healthier moms
Staying active during pregnancy can help you establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

For example, moving throughout the day in the weeks after delivery, and exercising once you get the all-clear from your doctor, may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots.

It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn requires.

Helps you lose the baby weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs.

Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, or a separation of the abdominal muscles that affects more than 50 percent of moms.

May prevent postpartum depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent it.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression

 

Workouts to avoid while pregnant

Although most types of workouts are safe, there are reasons to stick with safe pregnancy exercises.

You should avoid workouts that could cause you to be hit in the belly such as contact sports like softball, volleyball, basketball and tennis.

Workouts that could cause you to fall should be avoided as well. Think downhill skiing, surfing, water skiing, off-road cycling, and horseback riding.

Since staying hydrated is really important during pregnancy, it’s also best to avoid workouts that could make you become overheated, such as hot yoga or even walking outside on a hot, humid day.

There are also simple, gentle workouts you should avoid, such as those where you need to lie on your belly or stand still or have twisting movements.

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, you should also avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back.

 

Pregnancy tips for exercise

Whether you’re heading out for a brisk walk or prenatal yoga is more your speed, here are some tips to consider to ensure your workouts are safe, beneficial and fun.

Always warm up
Before you start any type of exercise, it’s always a good idea to start off with a warm-up for at least 5 minutes. A warm-up helps the blood vessels dilate and contract so you won’t feel out of breath, and it helps to prevent injuries.

Drink plenty of water
During pregnancy, it’s really important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially during and after each workout.

Staying hydrated is how your baby gets all of the nutrients you consume and can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s), constipation, headaches and swelling.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.

Start exercising even if you haven’t been active
If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, it’s not only OK to start now, but it’s recommended. However, you should start out slow and gradually increase the intensity and time.

If you regularly exercised before getting pregnant and you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, you can stick with the same type of exercise, even high intensity workouts.

You should however, talk to your provider first to make sure you’re not going overboard.

Look for prenatal workouts
While Pilates and Yoga for example, can be great, low-impact workouts, some programs include movements that should be avoided during pregnancy.

When possible, it’s a good idea to choose prenatal programs which are geared specifically for pregnant moms or at the very least, ask the instructor for modifications.

Cool down
Just as your warm-up is important, be sure to make time at the end of your workout to cool down which will steadily and safely decrease your heart rate.

Listen to your body
When working out, don’t try to push yourself too hard and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

If you feel dizzy or faint, have shortness of breath, pain, swelling or weakness in any area of your body or other symptoms that you’re concerned about, stop and call your provider.

Likewise, if you feel sluggish or not like yourself, throw in the towel.

 

 

Safe pregnancy exercises for every month of your pregnancy

When it comes to choosing your workouts, there are some workouts that are safer than others, but the key is to choose something that is enjoyable and that you’re more likely to stick with. 

Walking
Walking is one of the best safe pregnancy exercises because it’s gentle on the muscles and joints, plus it’s free and can be done anywhere.

Swimming
Swimming is a safe, effective total body workout and when you’re pregnant, getting into the pool and feeling weightless is an amazing feeling.

Strength training
Moderate weight lifting using free weights or weight machines can keep your muscles and bones strong.

What’s more, an April 2018 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found pregnant women who did resistance training twice a week had better mood and energy levels than women who didn’t.

Although strength training with weights can be safe during pregnancy, there are some movements that can cause injury or misalignment of the muscles.

Instead of maxing out on your reps, stick with lighter weights and more reps.

If you’re new to lifting weights, start out with light weights or use a resistance band. You might also choose to work with a trainer for a few sessions to learn how to lift safely.

Looking for a prenatal workout program? FIT4BABY is designed for pregnant moms and it combines cardio, strength training, balance, flexibility and meditation.

Core exercises
You’ll want to avoid crunches, sit-ups and double leg lifts, for example, which put strain on the abdominal muscles.

Of course, after 20 weeks, you’ll also want to avoid anything where you’re lying on your back.

However, safe abdominal exercises during pregnancy can help to ease back pain, may make your labor easier and can prevent diastasic recti.

If you’re looking for a program, I recommend EMbody, by Every Mother, which is the only fitness method proven to prevent and resolve diastasic recti.

Prenatal yoga
Studies show prenatal yoga can help ease pelvic pain, reduce stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression, and may make labor easier.

Experts say prenatal yoga can improve sleep, increase strength and flexibility and ease aches and pains throughout the body.

Prenatal classes are always great because of the community aspect, but if you’re looking for an at-home program, try Prenatal Yoga with Desi Bartlett.

Spinning
Spinning classes can be really intense but they’re actually designed for each person to go at their own pace.

Be sure to stay hydrated, avoid getting overheated and instead, go at your own pace. If standing up and riding is too challenging, bike while sitting down, for example.

Dance
Salsa, cardio dance and Zumba can all be fun, safe exercises pregnancy exercises that are easy on the joints, and can boost your energy and help keep your endurance levels up.

 

What are some of your favorite safe pregnancy exercises? Let’s open the conversation–leave me a comment!

 

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Have you ever seen those women on social media who are 9 months pregnant running marathons, lifting huge, heavy barbells at CrossFit or managing impossible Yoga poses without breaking a sweat?

I have but no, I wasn’t one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching Spinning classes and had completed my first endurance race—a 1/2 marathon—about 3 months earlier.

Since my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage however, my doctor suggested I cut back on exercise until the 3 month mark.

Once I was in the clear, I returned to the gym but not to a bike. 

Instead, I exercised several days of the week and did low-impact workouts like walking, strength training, stretching and prenatal Yoga.

More power to those women who can keep up with their intense workouts during pregnancy but let’s get real: particularly during those early months of pregnancy when you’re dealing with morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, the couch is much more appealing than the treadmill.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Why? Because there are so many amazing benefits during pregnancy and way beyond those 40 weeks. Here are 9.

1. Lower risk of pregnancy complications

Exercise during pregnancy strengthens the heart and blood vessels and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent, a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found. 

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have a caesarean section.

2. Cures pregnancy constipation

Between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with constipation during pregnancy.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary—another great reason to get moving.

Looking for more ways to prevent and cure constipation? Watch my video.

3. Eases aches and pains

Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are common during pregnancy.

4. May prevent postpartum depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent postpartum depression.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

5. Fights fatigue

Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

6. Improves sleep

When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with stress that might be keeping you awake. One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

7. Faster recovery from childbirth

Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

8. Supports postpartum health

Staying active during pregnancy can help establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

Exercise in the weeks after delivery may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn needs.

9. Helps you lose the baby weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs. Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery you can likely start to exercise a few days after you’ve given birth or when you feel ready, according to ACOG. If you had a c-section or complications or you’re simply unsure, you should always check with your doctor first.

Did you exercise during pregnancy? In what ways did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained more than 40 pounds—something I attribute to eating whatever and whenever I wanted.

A bagel and cream cheese was my go-to breakfast and chocolate was an everyday indulgence.

I mistakenly thought—as many women do—that I should be eating for two.

When there was a family gathering or party, I wouldn’t think twice about taking an extra treat because, I figured I was pregnant and I deserved it.

As my belly grew, the number on the scale got higher and I moved into the final weeks of pregnancy however, people would ask me, are you sure you’re not having twins?

Not exactly what a pregnant mom wants to hear.

When you look at the research, it turns out that my weight gain, albeit unhealthy, was on par with other women. According to a June 2017 meta-analysis in JAMA, 47 percent of women gain more than the Institute of Medicine guidelines.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is linked to a host of pregnancy complications, problems during labor and delivery and postpartum health conditions.

Unfortunately, studies also show that after pregnancy, the pounds linger.

According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they did before they became pregnant. In fact, 47 percent were 10 pounds overweight while 24 percent were 20 pounds overweight.

Of course, losing the weight reduces your risk for obesity, chronic health conditions, and things like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies.

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew a lot more about pregnancy nutrition and by making healthy choices and not overeating, my weight gain was within normal range.

Although the weight was slower to come off the second time around, by eating healthy, exercising and a few other tricks, I lost the baby weight with both pregnancies. Here’s how I did it.

Breastfeed

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the nurse told me, if you breastfeed, the weight will come off in no time.

I had already made the decision to breastfeed because of all the amazing benefits, so I figured if that was the case, even better.

It turns out, that nurse was right.

I found that when I was breastfeeding I was ravenous all the time and I definitely ate when I was but by 6 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule, but exclusive breastfeeding can torch some serious calories—up to 500 calories a day or the equivalent of running 6 miles!

According to a December 2014 study in the journal Preventative Medicine, women who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, lost 3 pounds (by the year mark) compared to women who didn’t breastfeed or breastfeed exclusively.

Yet other studies have shown that breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, since the hormone prolactin increases appetite and may lead women to consume too many calories.

Obviously, the decision to breastfeed shouldn’t be because of weight loss, but it could be an awesome extra benefit.

Eat whole foods

When you have a new baby at home, having time to cook, much less eat a meal can seem impossible.

A granola bar or a bag of crackers can help when you’re on the go, but if you’re relying on processed snacks all day, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to lose the baby weight in a healthy way.

To lose the baby weight, I focused on eating whole foods which are not only packed with nutrition but also stave off hunger. Eating a salad every day for lunch proved a great way for me to stay on track.

I also made it a point to get plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Exercise

After you have a baby, going to the gym is one healthy habit that can easily be put on the back burner.

Between back-to-back feedings, diaper changes, laundry and fighting through fatigue, working out is the last thing on your mind.

And if you have postpartum depression like I did, getting out of the house can be a struggle.

Yet after you get the green light from your provider to start exercising again, usually around 6 weeks postpartum, it’s one of the best things you can do not only to lose the baby weight but also for your health and your mood.

In the first few weeks of bringing my daughter home, I’d put her in the stroller and take walks in the neighborhood. When I was cleared to work out again, I started walking on the treadmill, then running and lifting weights.

If the gym isn’t your thing, there are so many ways to get in a workout.

Try the free or subscription-based workout apps or head to the park with your baby. At the very least, getting out prevents isolation and can help you meet other like-minded moms.

Don’t diet

To shed the baby weight, I never thought that what I was doing was a diet.

I didn’t count calories or put restrictions on what I was eating, although I did follow the WW (previously Weight Watchers) plan—more for the accountability than anything.

I knew that diets don’t work—it has to be a lifestyle—so I focused on giving my body what it needed—whole, nutritious foods. I ate when I was hungry, kept my portion sizes in check and always left room for treats.

Eat snacks

When you’re trying to lose weight, many experts say to stick to 3 square meals a day—no snacking allowed.

Since I was breastfeeding however, snacks helped to satisfy my hunger, especially between lunch and dinner and prevented overeating at meals. Also, since I have anxiety, low blood sugar is never a good thing, especially when caring for a baby and running around.

Experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding moms need an extra 300-500 calories, which can be built into your diet with snacks.

Drink water

Any time you’re trying to lose weight, experts will advise you to drink plenty of water. According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters, while lactating women should get more—

3.1 liters a day.

Thirst can often look like hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it promotes fullness and can stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

One trick that helped me to drink enough was to re-fill a re-usable water bottle and carry it with me everywhere I went.