Women who exercise during pregnancy enjoy many health benefits, including better cardiovascular fitness, improved mood, and weight control. Low to moderate intensity activity has been recommended for years. Even vigorous activity, like jogging, can be maintained throughout pregnancy with permission from your doctor. Still, there are precautions pregnant women must take into consideration to keep both mom and baby healthy.
“During pregnancy, joints loosen and balance is more difficult,” explains Pilates instructor and health coach Kate Marcin. “Doing exercises that stabilize the connections at the joints will prevent injury.”
Safety is the name of the game, so you should always chat with your healthcare provider before engaging in any new fitness program. You typically want to avoid activities that require jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing. Here are some workouts you can continue into your third trimester.
Walking and Jogging
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women. It requires little more than a pair of shoes and a sidewalk. If walking isn’t enough of a cardiovascular challenge, try jogging instead. Pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine, but if you’ve kept it up through week 27, there’s no need to stop unless you have certain health issues or discomfort.
A study published by Sports Health examined 110 competitive female distance runners and their habits throughout pregnancy. Of the 70 percent who chose to continue running, 31 percent plodded into their third trimesters. The key here that applies to runners of all abilities is reducing training duration and intensity. Even seasoned athletes cut their usual efforts in half. In other words, if your pace or body doesn’t feel good, slow it down or stop to walk.
Swimming and Aqua Aerobics
If you have access to a pool, you should take advantage of aqua sports. Lap swimming is an excellent total body exercise. It can also be therapeutic for women who have aches and pains. Water takes the pressure off of tired legs and backs and helps prevent overheating. Keep in mind that exertion, even in cool water, produces sweat. If you swim for long periods, hydrate as you would while doing other workouts on land.
There are lots of aerobics classes that have been adapted for underwater enjoyment. Zumba in the pool gets you dancing with added resistance. Joint and flexibility classes offer gentle ways to test your range of motion with the support of water. Aqua jogging is wonderful for runners who don’t feel comfortable with impact in later pregnancy. Some gyms are even putting stationary bikes in the water.
Yoga, Pilates, Barre, and Other Low-Impact Exercises
Low-impact exercises, such as yoga, Pilates, barre, and other fitness hybrids, are great for women in their third trimester. These workouts target all the major muscle groups, which can help you feel fit and strong for birth. Try taking classes specifically designed for pregnant women. The poses are modified so they are safe and more comfortable as baby (and mom) grow in those final weeks.
“Pilates is a fantastic way for women to build core stability during pregnancy,” explains Marcin. “The core weakens as the bump grows, and can lead to back pain and sciatica.” Classic Pilates mat moves “strengthen the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominus, which improves overall posture and can be useful when pushing,” she says.
Research has shown that yoga can ease the anxiety and depression that sometimes accompanies pregnancy. In a study published by Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, a group of depressed pregnant women were assigned a 20-minute yoga class from weeks 22 through 34. The results were positive in all areas of physical and mental wellbeing. The women reported mood improvements and decreases in pain, as well as lower incidence of preterm labor and Cesarean delivery.
Body Weight and Toning Moves
Heavy weights can prove dangerous in the third trimester, especially if you aren’t used to lifting. Try body weight workouts, like squats, modified planks, and wall push-ups, to maintain strength. Avoid crunches and ab work that have you flat on your back. “In the third trimester, lying on your back for long periods of time can be tricky,” says Marcin. “Try side-lying work that helps stabilize muscles — as well as your glutes, outer hip, inner thigh, and hamstring.”
With weights, Marcin recommends going light. “I love to focus on arm work with light weights. Babies are heavy, so it’s great to build that strength up early.” Try basic bicep curls, lateral raises, and tricep work with a pair of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells.
Fit Mom, Healthy Baby
The third trimester of pregnancy is filled with all sorts of thoughts, emotions, and even physical qualms. Even just 20 minutes of exercise a day can alleviate many of these symptoms, giving you a boost of energy and strengthening your body for the ultimate feat, delivery. These healthy habits are wonderful to develop now and continue once you get the go-ahead from your doctor in the postpartum period as well. You’re on the home stretch. Keep moving!