Exercise provides tremendous mental and physical benefits during pregnancy that can ease discomforts, prevent complications, and prepare you for childbirth. However, with all the changes taking place in your body, staying active requires some extra precautions and planning. This guide covers the dos and don’ts of prenatal fitness so you can exercise safely and effectively while nurturing yourself and your growing baby.
The Remarkable Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant
Consistent fitness during pregnancy can help:
- Prevent excess weight gain and lower risks of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
- Increase stamina, strength, and endurance for labor and recovering postpartum
- Manage common discomforts like back pain, fatigue, constipation, swelling, and sleep troubles
- Boost mood, energy levels, and self-confidence
- Prepare and engage the pelvic floor and core muscles used during delivery
Experts recommend aiming for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio activity, along with two to three strength training sessions. Top exercise choices perfectly suited for expecting moms include:
- Stationary cycling
- Prenatal yoga
- Light resistance training
Always seek medical clearance before starting any new fitness regimen, especially if you have pregnancy complications or chronic conditions. With your provider’s blessing, being active offers profound mental and physical wellness benefits during this transition to motherhood!
Smart Ways to Ease Into Prenatal Exercise
If you weren’t exercising regularly before pregnancy, begin super gradually with gentle cardio options like walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga. Start with just 5-10 minutes daily for the first 1-2 weeks and slowly increase duration as your body adapts.
For formerly active women, most workouts remain safe during pregnancy with a few minor modifications. Listen extremely closely to your body over the coming months as it continually changes and adjust intensity accordingly. You may breeze through wall sits or kettlebell swings one day and need to slow down the next as your center of gravity shifts. That’s completely normal!
Rule #1 is keeping an open, judgement-free dialogue with your body. Scale back whenever needed and never push through pain or concerning symptoms. Instead, get creative with discovering lower-impact alternatives that still deliver results without strain. Keep reading for insider tips!
6 Essential Dos for Safe, Effective Prenatal Training
Follow these key guidelines to exercise comfortably and minimize risks as your body transforms:
- Stay Extremely Hydrated – Drink at least 11-13 cups of water daily and bring some to your workout. Dehydration exacerbates pregnancy side effects like dizziness and nausea. Proper hydration is key!
- Listen to Your Body – Tune into subtle cues and fluidly adapt activities to avoid overexertion. Scale back or stop immediately if you have any concerning symptoms. Your body knows best!
- Engage Your Core – When lifting, moving, or straining, consciously tighten your pelvic floor and deep transverse ab muscles with each exhale. This stabilizes your spine and prevents coning or bulging of the abdominal wall.
- Choose Low-Impact Options – Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are gentle on joints while still providing cardio conditioning. Water workouts utilize buoyancy to take pressure off.
- Strength Train 2-3x Weekly – Use lighter weights and focus on higher reps to build muscle, prevent injury, and relieve back pain or swelling. Squats, rows, bicep curls, and shoulder presses are great prenatal moves.
- Stretch Daily – Gently stretch any tight muscles after workouts and ideally also morning and night. This prevents next-day soreness and muscle strain.
5 Key Prenatal Workout Don'ts to Avoid
Because pregnancy hormones loosen your joints and ligaments, steer clear of:
- Lying Flat on Your Back – This compresses major blood vessels leading to dizziness. Always keep your head and chest lifted using pillows, bolsters, or the wall.
- Bouncing or Jerky Motions – High-impact workouts like jogging, plyometrics, jump roping, and court sports may be too jarring. Stick to smooth, controlled movements.
- Breath-Holding – Lifting or straining while holding breath spikes blood pressure. Inhale on exertion, exhale on release instead.
- Hot Yoga or Overheating – Your body can’t regulate temperature as effectively now, raising risk of heat exhaustion or dehydration. Stay cool.
- Contact Sports – To avoid abdominal trauma or falls, skip activities like soccer, basketball, hockey, skiing etc. Modify your normal routine to be non-contact.
Fitness during Pregnancy Danger Signs
During and after exercising while pregnant, contact your provider promptly about:
- Contractions more than 6 per hour
- Bleeding or fluid leakage
- Sudden swelling, numbness, or calf pain (could indicate blood clots)
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate, breathing difficulty
- Headache, muscle weakness, dizziness not relieved with rest
If you maintained an active lifestyle pre-pregnancy, you should be able to continue exercising with appropriate modifications. But stay highly in tune with your ever-changing body – some fatigue or need to slow down is normal as you progress. Keep an open dialogue with your provider about your fitness regimen and scale back immediately if directed. With the right balance of activity tailored to your trimester and health status, exercise can be safe and hugely rewarding during your 40 precious weeks of pregnancy. You’ve got this, mama!
3 Key Training Supplements for Prenatal Fitness Success
Alongside your usual cardio and strength training, consider cleverly incorporating:
- Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy – Seeing a pelvic floor PT teaches you how to properly contract, relax, and strengthen these vital muscles. This prevents urinary and fecal incontinence down the line. Experts recommend three to four sessions, particularly in the second trimester as your uterus grows heavier.
- Prenatal Yoga – Gentle yoga builds core and pelvic floor strength, counters stiffness, alleviates back pain, and teaches you how to breathe through challenges – perfect for preparing for labor! Attend classes led by registered prenatal yoga instructors when possible and listen to your body’s limits in poses.
- Swimming – Taking pressure off your joints, swimming allows for gentle cardio without overexertion. Use flotation tools if needed for extra support and stick to light effort levels. Being chest-deep in the water may also relieve aches and swelling. Just avoid hot tubs or pools where overheating poses a risk.
The Bottom Line on Fitness during Pregnancy
Staying moderately active while pregnant is safe for most women and provides remarkable strength, stamina, and wellness benefits. Discuss an exercise plan tailored to your trimester and health status with your provider. Communicate about any warning signs prompting you to stop activity. Know that some adjustments will be needed as your body grows – that’s normal. If you carefully adapt your regimen over the 9 months, exercise can help you feel your absolute best during this magical chapter of pregnancy and early motherhood!
Creating your Own Pregnancy Workout Plan that Works
With your provider’s input, let’s map out a safe, customized fitness blueprint based on your current activity levels, interests, and access to gear or facilities:
- Step 1: Define Your Base Frequency and Duration – Expecting moms should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking or stationary cycling, along with 1-3 strength training sessions. If new to working out, start exercising just 5-10 minutes at gentle levels daily, scaling up weekly. If formerly active, determine your baseline but listen closely for when modifications become necessary.
- Step 2: Pick Your Primary Mode(s) of Cardio Exercise – Choose what you enjoy and have available! Top BEGINNER picks include walking, swimming, prenatal yoga, and elliptical workouts. INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED ladies can continue running, cycling, dance classes, and other programs with caution around contact, twisting, or overheating.
- Step 3: Select 2-3 Strength Moves – Squats, lunges, rows, lateral raises, and biceps curls are great options. Focus on higher rep counts with lighter weights. Always put stability first by engaging your deep core with breathwork.
- Step 4: Add Stretching and Recovery Work. Gentle post-workout stretches plus modalities like prenatal massage relieve sore, stiff spots. Schedule in adequate rest days too!
- Step 5: Get Excited and Trust Your Body! Growing a baby is hard work! Celebrate each workout you complete while closely monitoring energy levels and aches. Scale back when your body says so without judgement. You’ve got this, mama!
Optimizing Each Trimester: Shifting Focus by Stage
While staying active remains important throughout pregnancy, your specific fitness emphasis appropriately shifts each trimester:
First Trimester: Surviving Fatigue and Morning Sickness – Primarily focus on adequate nutrition, hydration, and rest while maintaining regular light activity whenever possible. Gentle walking, swimming, and stretching are great starters if energy allows. Conquering exhaustion and nausea makes trimester one success!
Second Trimester: Building Stamina and Core Strength – As fatigue and morning sickness fade, gradually increase duration of cardio sessions. Incorporate specific core and pelvic floor conditioning like squats, Kegels, and yoga poses. This prevents urinary incontinence later and builds workout capacity.
Third Trimester: Maintaining Function and Mobility – Focus less on duration or intensity growth. Instead, keep moving daily even just for mobility and variability. Address swelling, balance changes, or discomforts with modifications. Stay ready to respond to energy fluctuations graciously. Your body works hard this stretch – be kind to yourself!
The Key Takeaway: Keep Moving!
However fluctuating your energy, ability, or recovery needs – do your best to remain active with doctor approved exercise throughout pregnancy. Movement, even just light activity, offers immense benefits if you embrace the season’s natural ebb and flow. With confidence and patience focused on progress over perfection, you will sail through feeling strong!