Can You Exercise While Pregnant? Workout Ideas for Each Trimester

by Liz Jones | May 31, 2018 6:53 pm


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By Dr. Nadim Hawa, Capital Women’s Care

Whether it’s your first time or not — every pregnancy can come with a slew of new questions. What should you be eating? How should you be sleeping? And can you exercise while pregnant? We’re here to answer the last question and break it down by each trimester — with workout ideas to boot!

As an expectant mother, helping your baby grow healthy and strong becomes your top priority. To help make this happen, you’ll want to make sure you are being your best self, health-wise, during your pregnancy. For non-pregnant women[2], we usually assume being healthier involves exercising often, but during pregnancy, things become a little more complicated.

To help you navigate exercising throughout your pregnancy, we’re laying out a trimester-by-trimester guide to the question: “Can you exercise while pregnant?”

First, we want to dispel misconceptions about the risks of working out during pregnancy.

Contrary to what many people believe, working out during pregnancy actually holds a low risk for most women — provided that your exercise routine consists of activities you did prior to getting pregnant. Likewise, you won’t want to ramp up the intensity of your routine now that you have a bun in the oven. If anything, you may find the need to ramp down your exercise frequency/intensity (to minimize stress on your body and fatigue).

Of course, though, everybody is different, so you will absolutely need to check with your doctor to make sure working out is safe for you and your baby.

Even if you do get the go ahead though, you might find that — between a belly bump and morning sickness nausea— working out is not as easy as it was pre-pregnancy. Luckily, we have some great ideas for workouts that are manageable in each trimester and beneficial for you and your baby!

First Trimester
During your first trimester, you can benefit from doing workout moves that strengthen your back, legs, and glutes (or your posterior chain).

These muscle groups will help you maintain your posture and balance once your belly starts shifting your center of gravity forward. To target these posterior chain muscles, try incorporating moves like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. The good thing about these moves is that they can be modified depending on your fitness level as well! If you’re not a big lifter, you should do these moves using light weights, or use just your body weight. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you were a heavy lifter before getting pregnant, you can likely feel free to do these moves with heavier weights.

Beyond these moves, resistance training, in general, is a great idea throughout your entire pregnancy[3], as it can help prepare you to pick up and carry around your baby once they are born!

For information on how to perform these moves, along with others that strengthen your posterior chain, check out this link[4].

Second Trimester
In your second trimester, your energy levels will hopefully be higher than they were in your first term. Because of this, the second trimester can be a great time to get back into cardio activities (like cycling, or running) — if you engaged in those activities pre-pregnancy.

If you choose to incorporate cardio throughout your pregnancy, you’ll just want to make sure not to over-exert your heart. Your heart is responsible for pumping oxygen to your baby during your pregnancy, so you want to make sure it isn’t working too hard during cardio. To make sure you’re in the clear, use the “talk test” during cardio. The “talk test” requires that you are able to carry a conversation during cardio. If you cannot, it may be a clue that your exercise is making your heart work extremely hard, and is too intense to engage in during pregnancy.

Beyond cardio, your second trimester is also a great time to focus on your core and lower back — since your growing belly will be beginning to place extra strain on that area. Unfortunately, your growing belly may restrict the type of ab exercises you can engage in, and you’ll also want to minimize moves that involve sitting on your back (like crunches), which can compress the main vein leading to your heart. Luckily, you should still be able to perform classic planks and plank variations to work your core.

For more ideas on how to spice up the classic plank with variations you can with a belly, check out this link[5].

Third Trimester
Once you reach your third trimester, getting off the couch to go to the gym will likely be difficult. Aside from the fatigue and discomfort, your now large baby bump may make simply getting around a cumbersome task. The question might not be “can I exercise while pregnant?” But instead, “do I have to exercise while pregnant?” Of course, your exercise intensity and volume may need to be ramped down further in the third trimester, but activities like power walking and yoga can help get your mind and body prepared for delivery. Studies also show that women who exercise in their third trimester give birth to babies with up to 41% grams of fat, which can reduce the risk of obesity later in life for your child.

Finally, light exercise may also improve circulation, which can ultimately help you feel less bloated and puffy (a very common complaint from women in this stage of pregnancy).

As you can see, working out during pregnancy might require some creativity and adaptations, but the benefits are very likely worth it!

Of course, it’s important to listen to your doctor and your body to determine if—and how— you should workout through your pregnancy, but we hope the above information can, at the very least, show you that the answer to “can you exercise while pregnant?” is almost always yes!


Nadim Hawa, MD[6]Having studied Gynecology and Obstetrics for more than 12 years, Dr. Nadim Hawa with Capital Women’s Care provides guidance and support to his patients, understanding that age, values, beliefs, and health can all play a role in the obstetric care needed.

Dr. Hawa earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Neuroscience from the American University of Beirut, received medical training at the University of Balamond in Lebanon, and later joined the obstetrics and gynecology residency program at The George Washington University Hospital. Board certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Hawa specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures, offering his patients same-day surgery and faster recovery times.

Capital Women’s Care is located at 21785 Filigree Ct., Ste. 201, Ashburn, VA 20147. Connect with them and Dr. Hawa by calling (571) 707-8522 or visiting them online[7], Facebook[8], or Twitter[9].

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://cwcashburn.com/
  2. non-pregnant women: http://cwcashburn.com/benefits-of-birth-control-besides-preventing-pregnancy/
  3. your entire pregnancy: http://cwcashburn.com/
  4. this link: http://www.stack.com/a/the-14-best-posterior-chain-exercises-period
  5. this link: https://greatist.com/move/plank-variations-for-core-strength
  6. [Image]: http://cwcashburn.com/
  7. online: http://cwcashburn.com/
  8. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CWCAshburn/
  9. Twitter: https://twitter.com/CWCashburn

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