While everyone understands the benefits of exercise in general, many women
resist exercising during pregnancy. There might be a few reasons for this—there’s
a great deal of misinformation on the Internet that implies that vigorous
exercise is dangerous for unborn babies. However, the effects of exercise
during pregnancy, even vigorous exercise, have direct and documented benefits
on both the mother and child. Here’s how you can stay active while
ensuring a safe pregnancy.
1. Work Out Your Abs Consistently
One of the most persistent problems later on in a pregnancy is back pain.
Working out your core and abs increases the muscular support to your lumbar
and spine, which significantly reduces back pain! Working on your core
is safe at any point in your pregnancy because virtually all core movements
2. Avoid Lying On Your Back
In the second and third trimesters, however, avoid lying on your back for
abdominal exercises. Lying on your back risks drawing blood away from
your baby. This risk increases if you’re pumping blood to the rest
of your body, which is how all bodies respond to exercise.
3. Spread Your Workout into Portions
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 2.5 hours of exercise during the week—that’s
30 minutes a day. If you were not in the habit of exercising before your
pregnancy, that’s okay! It is perfectly safe to begin exercising
during your pregnancy. One way to safely manage 30 minutes a day is to
exercise throughout the day for 10-minute periods.
4. Listen to Your Body
The bodily response you’re looking for is light sweating, a slightly
elevated heart rate, and moderately heavy breathing. This is classified
as “moderate exercise.” As you become more confident and comfortable,
“vigorous exercise” that results in more sweating and a higher
heart rate is safe too—just work your way up gradually.
5. Stretch Before and After Workouts
Stretching is important to exercise because it
relaxes your muscles, ensuring that you are actually recovering from your workouts
well. Stretching also requires controlled, regular breathing, a skill
that all mothers-to-be will eventually have to utilize. It makes you a
more efficient athlete while relaxing your body. It’s one of the
safest, most beneficial physical practices you can do, so do it often!
6. Workout with a Partner or Join a Prenatal Workout Class
Working out with company is always more fun. More importantly, classes
offer the expertise of a teacher, who can ensure that you are working
out at a safe pace, have good form, and are doing things within your limits.
Prenatal fitness classes are offered by many hospitals, including:
7. Swim for Cardio
Physicians highly recommend swimming as a safe and effective way to exercise
while pregnant. Its benefits include:
- Negligible impact
- Full use of large muscle groups (torso, legs, core)
- Provides relief from weight of pregnancy
Swimming is also virtually safe up until labor because it is so gentle
on the body, no matter how much effort you put into it.
8. Strength Train with Low Weight and High Repetition
While some might think weight training is dangerous for pregnant women,
it is very much the opposite. Muscular strength has been tied to shorter,
safer deliveries, and greater muscle strength also burns excess fat more
efficiently. The key is to do plenty of movements with less weight to
avoid painful mistakes.
9. Do Lifts with Control and Stability
The best practices for weight training apply to all athletes, but for pregnant
women especially, remember that muscle training is most efficient with
controlled movements. After starting with low weights, practice good form for each exercise:
stable, slow, and controlled throughout the
10. Continue Exercise in Third Trimester
The greatest health benefits of exercise during pregnancy (like preventing
gestational diabetes or preeclampsia)
actually occur as a result of exercising in the third trimester. Vigorous exercise in the 3rd trimester is not inherently unsafe—you simply have to listen to
your body closely for red flags, like leaking vaginal fluid or early contractions.
Exercise in this stage can not only result in a healthier post-pregnancy,
but may result in healthier children with a lower rate of diabetes or obesity.
We encourage you to keep these tips in mind, exercise regularly, and keep
your doctor updated on your progress!
This article contains general information about medical conditions and
treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as
such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis
of a physician.
If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should
consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.