Before I dive into what this post is truly about I want to give a little bit of background information about myself. I have a bachelors, masters and doctorate degree in exercise/health science, so when I found out we were expecting our first baby I knew staying active would be a high priority for me.
Exercise during pregnancy has SO many benefits. It can reduce pregnancy aches and pains, boost your mood, help you sleep, help manage weight gain and help prepare you for the strenuous task of labor and delivery. While exercise during pregnancy is usually considered very safe, it is always important to talk to your doctor about exercise during pregnancy, as each pregnancy and person is unique.
For the most part, during your first trimester you won’t need to change up your normal exercise routine. There may be days where fatigue or nausea force you to rest, but generally you should be able to continue doing what you did pre-pregnancy. If you haven’t been active in the past, now is a great time to start a low intensity exercise, like walking.
While most exercises are safe for pregnancy, there are some exercises that will be off limits during pregnancy for safety reasons, including:
- Activities where you could fall (road cycling, skiing, gymnastics)
- Contact sports (soccer, basketball)
- Scuba diving
- Heated exercise, such as hot yoga
With your growing belly, you may need to start making some modifications to how you move around the 2nd trimester. For starters, in your 2nd trimester you’ll want to stop doing any exercises that require you to lay flat on your back. This is because the weight of the baby can compress a large vein, causing a drop in blood pressure, dizziness or fainting. An easy modification is to do these exercises on a slightly inclined bench.
Around this time is when you may start making some modifications to core exercises. You’ll also want to avoid anything that causes the abdominal muscles to bulge or cone outward, which can contribute to diastasis recti. Stick to core exercises like glute bridges, bird dogs, and modified planks. Aside from those few small changes, the 2nd trimester requires few other changes. In fact, if you had morning sickness or fatigue in the first trimester, it may start subsiding at this point, making getting active feel easier.
Personally, exercise in the 2nd trimester felt the best for me during my pregnancy. I felt back to “myself” in terms of my energy level, and regular exercise helped my mood so much since my 2nd trimester was during the winter. I actually completed the EQT 10 Mile Road Race in Pittsburgh at about 14 weeks pregnant. I ran much slower than normal and stopped for a lot of bathroom breaks, but I finished it!
The 3rd trimester is where things start to get interesting. Your growing belly may make some exercises nearly impossible and you may find yourself short of breath really quickly.
In this trimester, the same rule about avoiding flat-laying exercises applies, and you’ll be modifying exercises more often. For example, I switched to much lighter dumbbells for weight training, took a wider stance for squats and deadlifts, and had to adjust the seat and handles of my spin bike to make room for my belly. I also took more rest when my body was telling me it needed extra rest, and I paid more attention to stretching after exercise. Otherwise, anything you were doing previously is most likely ok!
As you can see, exercise during pregnancy doesn’t need to be super complicated. Here are a few other tips for keeping active during pregnancy:
- Do something you like! Now is not the time to force yourself to go to the group exercise class you dread. Find something you enjoy (or tolerate) and stick with it! For me this looked like spin workouts, weight training, and some YouTube prenatal yoga (all done in the comfort of my own home).
- Set realistic goals! Before pregnancy, my workouts were 45-60 minutes. By the start of my 2nd trimester I realized this wasn’t something I’d be able to keep up with. Instead I focused on doing 30 minutes of exercise a day. This was something I knew I’d be able to maintain during the 40 long weeks of pregnancy.
- Find your why. On days when exercising felt really hard for me, I focused on why staying active during pregnancy was important to me. I would talk out loud to my baby and tell her how I was exercising to keep her healthy, and to keep myself healthy for when she arrived.
I want to hear from you- what is/was your favorite way to stay active during pregnancy?
For more information about exercising during pregnancy, check out:
Photos: Ashley Hoffman, SweatNET Pittsburgh