Sporting a baby bump? Even more reason to get your steps in. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a healthy pregnant woman should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (think: brisk walking). This is not only key for your health (it can help control weight gain and potentially make for an easier labor and delivery), it’s also essential to the health of your unborn child. Recent studies have found that moms-to-be who work out while pregnant have babies with more mature—and well-wired—brains. Researchers also discovered that female mice that run during pregnancy have offspring that are more likely to be physically active as adults. Bottom line: It’s good for you and it’s good for that sweet baby. Here’s how to exercise safely and effectively when you’re expecting.
First Trimester FITNESS
What’s happening with your body: A heap of hormones and a baby that’s growing like crazy is likely leaving you nauseous and exhausted. If you already exercise regularly, you can continue with your usual workouts, even if they including running. Check with your doctor, to see what is safe for you, and keep in mind you’ll probably tire out more quickly. “I always tell pregnant clients to work within their comfort zone,” says NASM-certified trainer Jeremy Cheung, owner of The Performance Fix in Seattle, WA, where he regularly trains expecting moms using his Fit For Birth program.
How to keep moving: According to Cheung, there’s no time like now to focus on breathing techniques, which will be key for labor and delivery. He suggests slowly inhaling and exhaling pre- and post-exercise for about 5 seconds—to strengthen the diaphragm. It’s also a good time to ramp up pelvic floor exercises (Kegals!).
Second Trimester FITNESS
What’s happening with your body: “The golden trimester!” says Cheung. “This is when most expecting mothers feel pretty good and can enjoy exercise again.” (By now the morning sickness should be gone.) As with your first trimester, most anything goes—assuming your OB OKs it, and you listen to your body. However, you should avoid lying flat on your back—which can impede blood flow and cause dizziness, and any rotational movements, such as side bends and spinal twists. Your body is pumping out a hormone called relaxin, which makes your joints more limber and susceptible to injury. Be careful even when indoor cycling for example, as standing in the saddle could be harder on your joints. You also have a new center of balance with your growing belly.
How to keep moving: Continue with breathing exercises and regular cardio. “Interval training is also extra effective as it mimics the rhythm of labor,” Cheung says. (Bonus: You can use your Fitbit Charge HR or Fitbit Surge to track your heart rate, to make sure you’re working just hard enough without overdoing it.)
If you slacked off on strength training when you weren’t feeling well during your first trimester, now is a good time to add it back to your routine. Cheung suggests incorporating basic deadlifts and bridges into your workouts. “They strengthen what’s called the ‘hip complex,’ the group of muscles that keep you upright as your growing belly pulls your center of gravity forward,” Cheung explains.
Third Trimester FITNESS
What’s happening with your body: If you’ve been active up until now, you can continue with your routine until about week thirty-eight. “This is generally when mothers should start to taper off,” says Cheung. “Just like when you train for a marathon, you don’t hit it hard all they way up to the race.”
How to keep moving: You’re in the home stretch and listening to your body is more important than ever. As exhaustion creeps back in, refocus on breathing exercises and pelvic floor work. For many women, walking is the most realistic and often the most comfortable form of exercise in the final weeks leading up to baby’s arrival.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.