Safe Exercise for Each Trimester

pregnant fitness

Exercise is a safe and important activity for expectant mothers. It can help relieve low back pain, decrease your fatigue, shorten your labor, and lead to a quicker post-partum recovery! If you are considering exercising during your pregnancy, you may find yourself wondering which exercises are safe for your ever expanding mid-section.

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In the following, you will find examples of great exercises for each trimester as well as some important safety tips. Remember to check with your physician before adding any new exercises to your routine!

yoga lady

First Trimester – Average Weight Gain: 2-5 lbs

If you are lucky enough to want to continue your pre-pregnancy workout through the first-trimester morning sickness and fatigue, that’s great, you can safely continue with a normal routine. However, there are a few exceptions. Marathons are generally not recommended for pregnant women and you should probably avoid contact sports until after your baby is born. If your nausea and fatigue are getting in the way, keep in mind that it passes.

Walking and swimming are fabulous exercises for expectant moms. A brisk walk for 20-30 minutes each day can be a fun way to add physical activity to your day. 

If working out wasn’t part of your life before your pregnancy, no worries, you can safely incorporate many exercises into your week and reap the benefits! Walking and swimming are fabulous exercises for expectant moms. A brisk walk for 20-30 minutes each day can be a fun way to add physical activity to your day. Just be sure to avoid extreme temperatures and check to make sure you aren’t over exerting yourself by taking the “talk test”. If you can talk to your walking buddy without losing your breath, you’re A-okay!

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Swimming is a great exercise because it provides a cardiovascular workout while toning your muscles at the same time. The water also provides support as your belly grows, taking some pressure off your back and minimizing joint strain. During your first trimester, try swimming for at least 20 minutes about three times a week.

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Weight training with free weights or resistance training machines is another safe option and can help increase both your muscle tone and strength. If you currently weight train, consider reducing your weight and upping your repetitions. If you strain during weight training, avoid keeping your airway closed, which can increase the amount of pressure on your abdomen, and try to keep your breathing smooth and steady.

You can practice smooth and steady breathing during another great activity during pregnancy: prenatal yoga. Practicing your breathing now can be helpful during labor. Yoga is also a great way to stretch out tight muscles and increase flexibility, which can be quite helpful during pregnancy and may even decrease the need for an episiotomy.

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You should try incorporating kegel exercises into your daily routine. Start by contracting your kegel muscles as tightly as you can for 5 seconds.

Kegel exercises strengthen and tone the muscles of the pelvic floor, which helps prepare these muscles for delivery.

If you aren’t sure how to access your kegel muscles, keep in mind that these are the muscles that you use to hold back urine. If you try stopping and starting several times while urinating, you will be using your kegel muscles!

You should try incorporating kegel exercises into your daily routine. Start by contracting your kegel muscles as tightly as you can for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times for 1 set and try to fit in 5 –10 sets throughout the day.

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pregnant fitness

Second Trimester – Average Weight Gain: 1 lb per week

You can safely continue weight training, yoga, swimming, and running in your second trimester, but remember, no marathons! You may even find you have more energy in your second trimester.

As your joints loosen, you are at a greater risk for injury like sprains and strains.

However, as your belly grows your balance may be affected, so keep this in mind and adjust accordingly. You may want to sit for all your weight training sessions and take extra care during yoga. It is also important to pay special attention to your posture. Keeping your hips tucked under your body and avoiding an extra arch in your back can really protect your lower back and prevent some back pain.

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During your second trimester, your body starts to produce the hormone relaxin, which loosens your joints in preparation for labor and delivery. As your joints loosen, you are at a greater risk for injury like sprains and strains. For this reason, it is important to take care when stretching or participating in activities like running that can increase the amount of stress on your joints.

pregnant swim

Third Trimester – Average Weight Gain: 1 lb per week

Swimming, walking, and reclining exercise bikes are great third trimester workouts.

Some women continue to exercise throughout the end of the pregnancy, but depending on how you feel, it may be appropriate to cut down or stop exercising completely. But remember, the better shape you are in, the easier labor should be. 

If you have any questions about your workout regimen during this trimester it is best to ask your physician.

It is important to avoid lying on your back because this can block blood flow if there is any pressure on your blood vessels. Swimming, walking, and reclining exercise bikes are great third trimester workouts.

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Remember to keep up with your Kegel exercises, it’s almost delivery time!

Safety Tips

  • You should always monitor your heart rate. It is important to keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute. Your baby’s heart rate is linked to yours, so if your heart is racing, so is your little one’s. Using a heart rate monitor is a great way to stay within a safe range. In fact, some monitors even come with an alarm that can alert you if your heart rate goes above your desired limit.
  • Never exercise to the point where you are out of breath. If you find you are breathing too heavily, take it a bit slower and catch your breath. You don’t want to decrease your baby’s oxygen supply.
  • Get plenty of fluids, before, during, and after exercising.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures, especially very hot weather.
  • Avoid contact sports.
  • Make sure your footwear supports your ankles and arches.
  • Listen to your body!

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What do you think?

Safe Exercise for Each Trimester

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38 comments

  1. Profile photo of Aimee Aimee says:

    What would be a heart rate that would be too high during the second and third trimester?

  2. GREAT ADVICE! THIS IS MY SECOND PREGNANCY, AND I CAN HONESTLY SAY MY BODY IS REACTTING ALOT DIFFERENT THEN MY FIRST. SO I’M TRYING TO LEARN MORE AND MORE EACH DAY. THANKS

  3. Profile photo of Janice Janice says:

    I really do not remember any one saying I needed to exercise. I know that no activity is bad, and too much is bad, but I did not know I had to make a separate effort. I lived in the country, so maybe the hill and dale of things count.

  4. Profile photo of Nallely15 Nallely15 says:

    21 weeks.. and still got a long way to go, but staying strong!!

  5. Profile photo of verochka31 verochka31 says:

    26 weeks and still going strong…………..

  6. Profile photo of verochka31 verochka31 says:

    i am going on 25 weeks and still continue to jog, slower than at first, but still strong. and I walk as much as possible. can’t wait to get outside to do so now that the weather is getting warmer. LOVE spring/summer babies!

  7. Profile photo of neisha neisha says:

    I mostly just do streches

  8. Profile photo of hannah83 hannah83 says:

    Right now I feel well enough to exercise. I couldn’t even think about until I was 16 weeks because the morning sickness was so bad. Right now I am doing Yoga.

  9. This is outdated information. Research now shows keeping your heart rate below 140 bpms is not necessary.

  10. I try and walk as much as i can but being in Pennsylvania during this time of year its getting kind of cold.

  11. Profile photo of kandi kandi says:

    Lol I love walking

  12. i walk a lot with my 2 yr old son and it doesnt seem to make a difference with my weight 🙁

  13. Profile photo of april april says:

    I try and walk everyday. Even though I am very small and carrying twins, I figure the more I try to keep walking and doing minor things it will help keep my muscles from becoming to weak for labor. I always try not to go beyond what I can handle which imo is a good way to stay healthy all around.

  14. I need to start swimming i’m 35 weeks and i’ve heard it help’s with a lot of the pain’s that come in your 3d tri-mester!

  15. God will provide! ask and you shall recive

  16. Profile photo of ErinF ErinF says:

    Belly dance is great for preparing the body for pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve been dancing for two and a half years, and hope to continue as far into pregnancy as possible. One of my troupemates performed up until 5 or 6 months, and continued dancing through eight and a half months. She said that she had a very easy labor, and I’m sure that being active and exercising the muscles used in birth helped a great deal with that!

  17. Profile photo of Hope Hope says:

    I usually just walk and do pilates. Sometimes I use dancing or sex as my exercise also.

  18. Profile photo of PumpkinPhD PumpkinPhD says:

    Luckily, my favorite exercise–bellydancing–is low-impact enough to keep doing throughout the pregnancy. I’m 20 weeks now and still going to belly dance class. There are a few moves I can’t do any more (like stomach undulations), but I can modify things and take things slower if I need to. It’s good for balance and stretching muscles. I still walk regularly, too, but not as fast or as far as I did pre-pregnancy.

  19. Profile photo of Julie Julie says:

    Most of the time I do NOT feel like exercising. I am lucky to get out and throw the ball around with the dog.

  20. I plan to keep working out. I was worried about safety, but this is a great article! I stopped going to the gym and only go for walks, but it’s nice to know I can head back to gym and not worry so much! =] thanks!

  21. Profile photo of Jazz Jazz says:

    That’s great! I plan on exercising as much as possible as well. 🙂

  22. Profile photo of Sasoo Sasoo says:

    8 mos and still working out!

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