You’ve just received the best news! You’re having a baby! Now, there is a long list of things that need to be figured out before the baby arrives, but at the top of your list is making sure that your baby remains safe and healthy. You’ve talked to your friends and other moms in your circle and most of them say the same thing: “Working out while pregnant is dangerous for the baby and it’s best to just take a break from exercise for a while.” This piece of advice is concerning because you love to work out and the thought of taking a break for 9+ months is giving you a slight bout of anxiety. Well, there’s good news!
There are actually many positive benefits for mom and baby when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. In regards to the baby, exercising early in your pregnancy can help stimulate placenta growth and function as well as the organs and systems. Staying active through the later stages keeps the baby’s growth and development on track. All of these good things can happen with as little as 30 to 45 minutes of exercise each day. Unless you have serious complications, you should definitely exercise during pregnancy.
So what kind of exercise should you be doing during pregnancy and how does it change throughout each trimester? Well, let’s break it down a little bit.
For many women, the first trimester can feel like the worst because of fatigue, morning sickness, and shifts in your blood circulation can leave you feeling wiped out. However, restrictions on what you can do for exercise are very minimal.
- You are free to engage in your favorite types of cardio, as long as they don’t include excessive risks of crashing, falling, or seriously hurting yourself (running, cycling, other cardio machines, etc. are fine).
- This is the perfect time to focus on strength, stamina, and building muscle memory, which is very important when the baby is born. Building and maintaining core strength during this time is also extremely important. You want to choose exercises that strengthen your entire core so that it can remain strong and resilient as your belly continues to grow.
Oftentimes at this stage of pregnancy, your energy levels return, your tummy starts to show and you can start to feel the baby moving. Your growing belly will start to change your posture, stability, and balance which will need to be taken into consideration when choosing a workout regimen.
- When it comes to cardio, your growing belly will make it a lot more difficult. Keep it safe with swimming, spinning, and low-impact fitness classes.
- While doing resistance training, focus on posture, core stability, and balance. You want to perform exercises that keep your spine in a proper neutral upright position. (It is during this trimester that your back and neck will start to feel the strain of all the extra weight you are carrying around in the front.) Core stretching and strengthening are very important because they will help reduce round ligament pain.
This is it! You are almost there. These last few months are usually the hardest for physical activity because weight gain and the size of your belly have reduced your lung capacity. You will also probably feel general aches and pains, have the urge to pee more often, experience swelling, etc. All of these things can influence your ability and desire to work out.
- Most cardio movements that were fine early on in pregnancy are probably much harder now – running has probably turned more into shuffling or a brisk walk, and biking has presented its own set of challenges because your belly can get in the way of the bars.
- Resistance training is going to start looking a lot more like rehab rather than an actual workout. It is important to focus on flexibility, joint mobility, and other exercises that will prepare you for labor. Pelvic floor exercises are extremely important to work on at this time. These will help keep the pelvis, spine, and hips mobile, which will relieve some discomfort and help prepare you for labor.
As you can see, just because you are pregnant, it doesn’t mean you have to stop working out. In fact, there are so many benefits for you and your baby that this should encourage you to continue being active for as long as you can.
Source: Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Stacy T. Sims, PhD