Staying healthy and fit when you’re pregnant is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Even if you are experiencing morning sickness, or other queasiness, getting up and moving around will help you feel better. Exercise also will help you regulate weight gain, prepare you for bearing more pounds, and get you in shape for childbirth. It’s good for mood and sleep, too.
You probably aren’t noticing a lot of major bodily changes yet, other than feeling like you need a little more rest. The most important rules for first trimester exercise are to pay attention to those new limits on your energy, and avoid falls. Make sure your doctor knows what exercise you’re undertaking, and talk to them about anything new you start.
Now is a good time to add a low-impact exercise that you’ll be able to do as your pregnancy progresses. For example, if you run for exercise three times a week now, substitute one session of water exercise for a run during your first trimester. That way you’ve got a head start on water workouts if and when you give up running.
Where to Start
If you didn’t exercise regularly before you got pregnant, now is the time to get in a habit that could serve you for a lifetime. Begin with a low level of exertion and work up to 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. If possible, work with a trainer who has expertise in working out during pregnancy.
And don’t forget to enjoy yourself. If going to the gym isn’t for you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Go dancing with friends or splash around in the pool. Any exercise is better than none.
Pilates can help you address two of the challenges you’ll experience during pregnancy: balance and lower back pain.
Pilates builds core muscles through a series of equipment and floor exercises. Your first sessions will focus on building strength. Later sessions challenge that strength and your balance. Avoid poses where you lie on your back, and any twisting of your midsection. Don’t overexert during Pilates or other belly-focused exercise, or you could cause diastasis recti, a condition in which the parallel panels of your abdominal muscles temporarily separate.
A prenatal Pilates workout once a week will help you build strength and balance.
Welcome to one of the best exercises you can do for yourself during pregnancy, and for the rest of your life. Yoga builds strength and balance, keeps muscles limber, reduces blood pressure, and teaches you breathing rhythms that will help during delivery. Long after childbirth, as you enter menopause, it can help prevent osteoporosis by building bone mineral density.
If you already practice yoga and your prepregnancy routine is comfortable in your new condition, keep it up.
You should avoid:
- poses that twist the abdomen
- any position where your feet are over your head, such as headstands
- lying on your back
- Bikram, or “hot,” yoga
Any amount of yoga is healthy, as long as you’re not overexerting by pulling muscles or getting overheated. Thirty minutes of yoga a day is great, as is one 30-minute session a week.
Walking is what our bodies are made for and it makes a great pregnancy exercise. An easy stroll gets you moving, and you can build upper body strength by swinging your arms and get your heart pumping by picking up the pace.
If you aren’t already an exercise walker, start with 10 minutes a day, three to five times a week. Work up to 30 minutes a day. To help prevent falling, stay off any broken sidewalks or rocky pathways.
Swimming and Water Aerobics
The pool is your friend during pregnancy. The water is soothing, the exercise is low-impact, and you won’t fall over. Water exercise expert Sara Haley has a helpful series of prenatal exercises that focus on building core strength.
If you’re already doing water exercise, there’s no need to change your routine. As in all exercise, avoid twisting your middle too much, and pay attention to your energy limits. If you get tired, it’s not time to push yourself — it’s time to get out of the pool. If you’re starting water exercise during pregnancy, ask a swim coach or trainer at the pool where you work out about safe routines.
Three to five times a week, 30 minutes at a time.
If you’ve never been a runner, consider other pregnancy exercise. While it’s very unlikely that running in your first trimester will cause a pregnancy problem, you will eventually give it up in the next several months, and there are many other ways to get a healthy workout.
If you were a runner before pregnancy, you probably can continue to follow your safe running routine in your first trimester. The same cautions apply about falls and energy: Run on flat tracks or a treadmill with safety bars to prevent falls, and stop when you’re tired, not after. Now is not the time to push yourself.
If your prepregnancy routine still feels good, keep it up, aiming for 30 minutes of running at least three days a week.
Weight training will help build strength throughout the body to prepare you for carrying more pregnancy weight and help you deliver. You can lift free weights and work out on weight machines at a gym. Avoid any maneuvers that hold weights over your belly and that have you lying on your back. You should also take care not to strain your breathing. Work with a trainer on a prenatal routine.
A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health reported that low to moderate intensity strength training twice a week was safe and helpful for pregnancy.
Stationary Bike and Spin Class
The problem during pregnancy is not getting on a bike — it’s falling off. Or, in the case of riding a bike on the streets, having an accident. That’s why stationary bikes and spin class are good for you during your first trimester. Both are low-impact and get your heart moving. Be careful not to fall prey to the competitive atmosphere of some spin classes. Go at a pace that feels right for you.
Late in your first trimester, you may notice that your center of gravity is changing. Whether you’re on a stationary bike or spinning, check to see if the height of your handlebars is properly supporting your back, and adjust if needed.
Two or three sessions on a bike or spinning per week, in sessions of 30 minutes to an hour.
Exercising Safely in the First Trimester
You probably don’t look pregnant yet, so make sure those around you — your exercise coaches and your workout buddies — know that you’re expecting.
It can help to do a warm up. Five minutes of stretching before you workout will help your muscles prepare for exertion. You should also do a cool down: For the last five minutes of a 30-minute workout, switch to slower exercise and stretch any tight muscles.
You should stop exercising if you:
- feel queasy
- get too hot
- feel dehydrated
- experience any vaginal discharge, bleeding, or abdominal or pelvic pain
Hydrate regularly during pregnancy whether you’re exercising or not. There isn’t any recommendation for the ideal heart rate during first trimester exercise, but a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to have a normal conversation while you’re working out.