October 31, 2023 11 min read
The 280-day journey of pregnancy is a life-changing and thrilling time for a woman. Nurturing and supporting a new life require the body of the mother-to-be to undergo remarkable changes, and prioritizing health and well-being is essential.
If you are an expectant mother, you can stay healthy and fit by choosing workouts and exercises that will also help ease the discomfort and get your body ready for giving birth.
This article will give you valuable information and advice to make sure you and your baby are safe and healthy during pregnancy. So, let's embark on this journey to discover the ideal exercises for each trimester of your pregnancy.
As your pregnancy progresses through the three trimesters, your body undergoes many changes, every one of which should be considered when you plan your workout routine.
Joints: The body releases the hormones relaxin and progesterone during pregnancy to soften ligaments and loosen the pelvic and other joints. This reduces stability and increases the risk of injury, especially during bouncy, jerky, or high-impact movements.
Balance: The extra load of weight on the front of your body makes you more likely to lose your balance. This is because your baby bump shifts your center of gravity, placing more stress on your muscles and joints, increasing the risk of falling.
Breathing: Proper breathing always plays a significant role in exercising because it boosts oxygen and blood flow to your muscles. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases to support the growing fetus. This extra blood volume requires more oxygen to transport nutrients and oxygen to both the mother and the baby. Choosing exercises that are too strenuous could be harmful to both.
Exercise during pregnancy is safe as long as you are healthy, and your pregnancy is progressing normally. So, whether working out is already a part of your life, or if you are new to regular exercise, physical activity is safe. It does not increase your risk of low birth weight, early delivery, or miscarriage.
However, there are certain medical conditions and circumstances that may make exercising during pregnancy unsafe or require close medical supervision. It's essential to consult your healthcare provider before starting or continuing any exercise program during pregnancy.
According to the Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy, pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on five days of the week, or into smaller 10-minute workouts doing different activities throughout each day.
Aerobic exercise is any type of physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing, improving cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness.
Aerobic exercise typically occurs when your heart rate is between about 70% and 80% of its maximum.
You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So for a 30-year-old, the estimated maximum heart rate would be 190 beats per minute (bpm), and the aerobic heart rate range would be between 133 bpm (70% of 190) and 152 bpm (80% of 190). It's important to note that these are rough estimates, and individual target heart rate zones can vary.
Moderate intensity means the movement is intense enough to raise your heart rate and cause you to start sweating, but you can still talk normally without becoming short of breath. Brisk walking is an example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, as are general activities like weeding, raking, and digging while gardening.
If you are new to physical exercise, start out slowly with as little as 5 minutes a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day. If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts if your ob-gyn approves.
— Staying hydrated is crucial. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Look out for dizziness, a pounding, or racing heart, dizziness, having dark yellow urine, or urinating only in small amounts. These are all signs of dehydration.
— Avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid doing your exercise routine in humid or hot environments, both indoors and outdoors.
— Avoid lying flat on your back as much as possible. When you lie on your back, the weight of your bump causes your uterus to press on the large vein that returns blood to the heart.
— Don’t stand still for a long time. Standing motionless causes blood to pool in your feet and legs, potentially causing decreased blood pressure.
Avoid physical activities that can increase the risk of injury during pregnancy.
Here are some examples:
Although exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, safety is essential. Consult your healthcare provider before starting any pregnancy workout, and make sure your fitness instructor and personal trainer are aware of your pregnancy, even before you start showing a baby bump.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes in direction that are typical in HIIT workouts, be avoided by pregnant women. They warn that without changing these workouts to lower-intensity exercises they could strain your joints and increase your risk of injury during pregnancy.
They can provide personalized recommendations and guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of both your baby and you throughout your pregnancy journey. The following exercises might need slight adjustments to suit your unique needs.
Walking provides multiple benefits for pregnant women in all three trimesters. It is an excellent exercise if done with correct posture and at different paces. Your walk during the first trimester may be brisker than in the second trimester, and it might even slow down to a stroll as you proceed through the third trimester. But it's all good.
Swimming and water workouts are considered safe forms of cardio throughout the entire pregnancy. Water workouts provide full-body exercise, taxing most of the muscles in your body, but with the water supporting your body weight, you're protected from muscle strains and other injury risks.
Swimming helps ease backache because it strengthens your back, arm, and leg muscles, helping you support your growing body when you're on dry land.
Compared to bicycling, using a stationary bike is typically considered a safer cardio option during all three trimesters of a pregnancy because the risk of falling is significantly lower.
Other cardio machines, like ellipticals or arc trainers, are also regarded as effective and safe forms of cardio because of their lower impact on the joints, compared to running.
Any low-impact prenatal aerobic exercise program is an effective way of incorporating cardio into your fitness routine during pregnancy. But make sure your fitness instructor knows you are pregnant, and how far along you are. This can allow them to adjust the intensity of the aerobics program as your pregnancy progresses.
Yoga improves flexibility, reduces stress, and increases flexibility while encouraging focused breathing and stretching. Attending prenatal yoga and Pilates classes is recommended because they are designed for pregnant women and their shifting balance.
Prenatal yoga, Hatha yoga, and restorative yoga practices are excellent ways to keep you moving with ease during pregnancy.
Poses that require you to be still or lie on your back for long periods should be avoided, especially during the second and third trimesters. Furthermore, hot yoga should be avoided as it is considered unsafe during pregnancy.
Talk to your yoga teacher about any changes you need. Don't do inversions, big bends, or positions on your back. Pay attention to how you feel during your class and stop or change any position if you feel uncomfortable.
Among the equipment suitable for pregnancy workouts, the stability ball is one of the best. It can be used alone or with weights.
Sitting on the stability ball does not only provide support, but it also requires the engagement of your core muscles to stabilize the ball. So, pregnancy exercises with a fitness ball allow simple arm exercises to increase arm strength and help strengthen the core and back muscles.
Typical core workouts involve crunches, butterfly kicks, sit-ups, and other exercises done while lying on your back. However, during the second and third trimesters, lying on your back is unsafe. So, your core exercises during pregnancy will look quite different. Here too, the stability ball turns out to be the perfect piece of equipment.
While planking works a whole lot more than your core, it puts significant strain on the abdominal muscles. Therefore, it is only safe during the first trimester of your pregnancy.
Planks can remain a part of your workout routine during the second and third trimesters, but only with modifications.
Do planks with your hands slightly elevated on a bench and hold for short intervals, no longer than 5 to 10 seconds at a time. However, if you feel any discomfort or strain in your abdominal muscles, stop immediately.
If standard pushups or knee pushups were part of your pre-pregnancy workouts, you can safely continue doing them during the first trimester. However, don't do them if you're a beginner. When you reach the second trimester, it's safer to lessen the back and core strain by doing wall push-ups instead.
Not only do squats help strengthen your legs, glutes, and core, but also the pelvic floor muscles, which are essential during childbirth.
The Kegel exercises are named after gynecologist Arnold Kegel. They work your pelvic floor, which is a group of muscles and ligaments that sit like a sling between your hips. Your pelvic floor muscles help your bladder, uterus, and other parts move urine, gas, and feces.
Doing Kegels during pregnancy is a safe and effective way to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong.
The objective of a Kegel is to temporarily contract and then relax the pelvic floor muscles. It's best to aim for several short sets a few times a day.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a person who exercises regularly during pregnancy may also decrease their chance of needing a cesarean delivery.
Additionally, exercising during pregnancy offers a wide range of benefits for both expectant mothers and their growing babies.
These benefits include:
Protein shakes can be safe for pregnant individuals when consumed in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet, including prenatal workouts. However, it's essential to exercise caution and consult a healthcare professional, such as an obstetrician or a registered dietitian, before adding protein shakes to your prenatal fitness routine.
Always remember that every pregnancy is unique, and individual circumstances may vary. Your healthcare provider will assess your specific situation, considering your medical history, current health, and pregnancy status, to provide personalized recommendations regarding exercise during pregnancy. In many cases, they may be able to suggest safe and appropriate modifications to your exercise routine to ensure both you and your baby's well-being.