Your Essential Workout Guide for Every Trimester of Pregnancy
Wondering how to stay fit while pregnant? Check out the best exercises to do during each trimester.
You’re having a baby! First, congrats. Second, get ready for a few changes in your hardcore fitness routine. As an athlete, you’re used to going HAM on your workouts, but as a pregnant mom-to-be, the next nine months are not just about you. The way you push your body will also affect your baby, so it’s important to know what’s okay and what’s better saved for post-delivery.
Whatever you do, though, don’t stop the sweat sessions: “Physical fitness should be one of your priorities during pregnancy,” says Rebecca Callahan, an advisor and nurse practitioner for the Maven Clinic in New York City.
“The biggest misconception that women have is that they can’t exercise through pregnancy,” agrees Heather Brooks, a women’s health physical therapist. “Unless you have contraindications, you can continue on with what you’re doing as long as your body tells you that you can do it.”
Some perks of staying fit throughout your pregnancy: More energy, easier labor and faster post-delivery recovery; also fewer backaches, less constipation and reduced bloating and swelling. Exercise can also help prevent gestational diabetes, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Because each stage of pregnancy comes with its own challenges, you need workout plans tailored to where you are in your journey. Check out these suggestions for your first, second and third trimester—and always talk with your doc before starting a new routine.
Your First Trimester
What’s going on: During the early stages of pregnancy, some women feel super tired, while others are fine. Morning sickness is common, as is heartburn, constipation and a shift in emotions.
Your body’s biggest challenge: Building core strength. The stronger you can make yourself in the first three months, the easier it will be to carry that extra weight in your belly for the following six.
Moves to try now: Kegels: Contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles will build support for the baby during pregnancy and assist you in the birthing process. Planks: This move strengthens the transverse abdominis, muscles located on either side of your torso that play a crucial role in stabilizing your core.
What about cardio? Keep doing whatever you were doing before, just pull back a little on intensity. Easy running, walking, swimming, prenatal yoga and Pilates are all good options.
Your Second Trimester
What’s going on: Your baby bump is forming, increasing the odds that you’ll feel a little off-balance. The hormones your body is producing affect your flexibility, which can make you more injury-prone. You might also be dealing with lower back pain—luckily physical activity can help relieve symptoms.
You body’s biggest challenge: You need to retrain your body to find its center of gravity. Developing a strong back and upper body will strengthen your posture, which in turn will make it easier to keep your body stable and balanced.
Moves to try now: Single-leg stand: Take a few minutes a day to practice balancing on one foot for 30 to 60 seconds, then doing it on the other. Wall push-ups: This do-anywhere move builds biceps, triceps and pectoral strength. Lat pulldowns: Developing your deltoids and traps will go a long way toward preventing the pregnancy slouch.
What about cardio? If running is starting to feel uncomfortable, Callahan recommends stationary cycling as a low-risk aerobic workout. Prenatal yoga and Pilates workouts are also great low-impact choices. Give your belly extra support with high-waist leggings and avoid positions that require you to lie on your stomach or do cross-body twisting.
Your Third Trimester
What’s going on: Working out is getting tricky. Blame a large belly, Braxton Hicks contractions, shortness of breath and a frequent need to pee due to the weight of the baby pressing on your bladder. It’s definitely okay to go easy with exercise right now.
Your body’s biggest challenge: Backaches and swelling in your legs and feet are frequent offenders at this stage of pregnancy, making it tough to feel psyched about working out.
Moves to try now: Cat-cow: This classic yoga contract-and-release pose can help relieve aching back symptoms. Bridges: Lifting and lowering your hips from the floor (knees bent) can also ease pressure on your lower back while stretching your hips. Wall hang: Propping your feet up against the wall while lying on your back will help blood circulate and reduce the swelling.
What about cardio? Slip on a supportive tank top and cushioned shoes and hit the elliptical machine for a solid cardio session with minimal impact. If you’re practicing yoga, certain poses can help shift the baby’s position if needed. “Gentle inversions like a supported bridge pose might help to turn the baby,” says Callahan. “And then if the baby turns, you want to stop doing inversions and encourage deep squats to help the baby's head lower into the pelvis.”
While your pregnancy workouts won’t be as intense as the stuff you’re used to doing, the important thing is that you do something—anything—to stay in shape. Keeping up a baseline of fitness will make it much easier to return to the activities you love quickly. “Try new things, take it easy, find a friend and join a prenatal pregnancy class,” says Callahan. “Have fun with it.” You’ll be back to your knockout routine in no time.