Exercising while pregnant
Keeping in good shape while you’re pregnant is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Exercise will help you gain an appropriate amount of weight (not too much) and get you ready for the rigors of birth. It can also help you feel better and sleep better.
With all of your body’s changes, you may be wondering what healthy exercise is: What kinds are good for you and your baby, and how much should you be doing?
The good news is you don’t have to give up on most of the activities you enjoyed in your first trimester, as long as your pregnancy is healthy and you aren’t in danger of falling.
Many activities are safe in moderation, as long as you and your baby are healthy.
Avoid activities where you could take a hard fall. You may have safely ridden a bike in the first trimester, but why risk it now? If bike riding is a critical part of your exercise routine, choose a stationary bike from here on out.
If you’re an avid skier, stick to the bunny slope, or switch to cross-country. Anything that reduces potential oxygen flow, like scuba diving or activities at high elevation, isn’t safe.
You should stop exercising if you:
- feel queasy
- get too hot
- feel dehydrated
- experience any vaginal discharge, bleeding, or abdominal or pelvic pain
Keep plenty of water on hand when you exercise. And while there isn’t any recommendation for an ideal heart rate during second trimester exercise, if you can’t carry on a normal conversation while you’re working out, you’re probably working out too hard.
Walking is a primal human activity and perfect for pregnancy. Most modern birthing centers allow mothers to walk in the hours — if not even the moments — leading up to delivery.
When you use your arms during walking, you can build upper body strength and flexibility. Walking at a fast pace is a heart-healthy exercise.
Thirty minutes a day, three to five times a week is a healthy walking schedule. If you’re not already an exercise walker, you can work up to that level, starting with 10 minutes a day.
You guessed it: Gentle, strengthening yoga could be your best friend if you’re pregnant. It will help you stretch muscles, reduce pregnancy pains like those in your lower back, and decrease blood pressure.
Learning to breathe with your body’s movements is an essential part of yoga practice, and one that will serve you well during labor and delivery (and in the future, in stressful parenting moments).
If you already practice yoga, continue with your routine, as long as it’s comfortable. Avoid positions where you might fall, like Warrior pose and Tree pose, or have a partner support you for those. Avoid twisting your abdomen.
No inverted poses (where your feet are over your head), poses where you’re on your back, or backbends. If anything doesn’t feel right, don’t do it — you’ve got the rest of your life to learn challenging yoga poses.
You should avoid Bikram, or “hot,” yoga during pregnancy. These classes generally heat the exercise room to 104ºF (40ºC). Getting your body temperature above 102ºF (39ºC) can endanger your baby or cause you to get dehydrated.
If you’re a first-time “yogini” during your second trimester, try out a prenatal yoga class or video instruction. These will focus on healthy yoga poses for you and your baby.
Three to five times a week is very good, but if you want to practice every day, go for it. Thirty minutes of yoga is a healthy routine, but you can do more if you feel like it.
Water exercise is great during pregnancy, if for no other reason than there’s little falling. The water is soothing, the motion is low impact, and you can build strength and aerobic capacity at the same time. Focus on swim exercises that strengthen core muscles without twisting your abdomen.
If you’re already exercising in the pool, keep it up. If you’re new to swimming, ask a swim coach or trainer at the pool where you swim to help you develop a safe routine.
Three to five times a week, 30 minutes at a time.
If you were a runner before getting pregnant or safely ran in your first trimester, you probably can continue to follow your safe running routine. Remember that your body is changing. Specifically, your center of gravity is shifting.
This means you should be careful not to fall. Stick to flat running tracks, or run on a treadmill with safety bars. Give up the trails and broken sidewalks for now.
If you weren’t a runner before, now’s not the time to start.
If you feel joint or back pain, or any other concerning symptoms, stop running.
Follow your previous running routine, or aim for 30-minute runs, three to five times a week.
Check with your doctor throughout your pregnancy to make sure you’re exercising appropriately, and pay close attention to your body’s new limits.
Even if you weren’t much of an athlete before pregnancy (or maybe you were held back from doing much exercise in your first trimester because of queasiness), now is a great time to start with gentle exercise. Just don’t push yourself too hard. And most importantly, don’t forget to relax and have fun.
Tips for Exercising Safely
- Choose low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga.
- Start with a low level of exertion and work up to 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week.
- If you can, work with a trainer who has expertise in working out during pregnancy.