If you’ve recently discovered you’re pregnant — congratulations! Chances are you’re a mix of bundled nerves, feeling excited, nervous, and terrified. Don’t worry, it’s all completely normal. As you look ahead over the next 40 or so weeks, you may wonder how fitness will fit into your pregnancy. Even if you aren’t feeling super motivated in your first trimester to exercise (hello, nausea and fatigue!), developing a prenatal fitness program will benefit both you and your baby.
Here are some tips to pick a safe and effective prenatal fitness program. Before you start, make sure to loop your health care provider into your plan.
Pacing yourself while you exercise is essential when pregnant. Even if you were very active before you got pregnant, you may be able to sustain your usual workouts for a while, but as the months tick by (and your belly grows) you may get winded more quickly.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends pregnant women aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, or about 30 minutes five days a week. If you can carry on a breathy, light conversation during exercise, you’re in that moderate-intensity range. However, if you find yourself struggling to speak or are gasping for air, slow it down a bit.
Take it easy on yourself and your changing body. Sign up for Talia Sutra’s app and explore the following brief 10-minute exercises:
Backbending during pregnancy
Twists during pregnancy
Abdominals during pregnancy
It can be hard to switch it up and add in weights or bodyweight training if you’re a cardio junkie, but strength training is so important during pregnancy starting from the first trimester.
Guidelines from the Strength and Conditioning Journal state that focusing on strength training will help core and pelvic floor strength, improve posture, and minimize back pain in the second and third trimesters. Strength training doesn’t just mean lifting heavy weights, either, which can be unsafe if you weren’t doing so before you got pregnant. Exercises like prenatal yoga or Pilates and bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats are safe ways to help you get stronger.
Whether you’re in your first or third trimester, sign up for Chandler Nicoll’s app to access the following strength training workouts:
Upper body push workout (prenatal)
Body weight leg day
Upper body day
Just because an exercise is classified as low-impact doesn’t mean it’s also low-intensity. Low-impact just means the effort on your joints is gentler, which is important as your ligaments stretch and relax thanks to the surge of hormones in your body. Plus, as your body changes throughout pregnancy, your center of balance will be off, and low-impact workouts are less likely to have you accidentally tipping over.
Get your cardio in with ACOG-approved low-impact workouts including brisk walking, swimming, stationary biking, and yoga.
To help ease into your new prenatal workout routine, sign up for Hannah Bower’s app to try a few low-impact exercises, including:
Low-impact full body
Bodyweight workout (mainly legs, low-impact)
Your body is constantly changing during pregnancy, and it’s so important to take note of these shifts. What works one day may not be the best fit the next, which means your prenatal fitness plan should be a very fluid one.
Make sure you’re eating enough calories and squeeze in a small snack an hour before your workout to stay properly fueled. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and move from one circuit to the next slowly to avoid feeling dizzy. The American Pregnancy Association also stresses the importance of properly stretching, taking frequent breaks, and being aware of the proper modifications in later trimesters, like avoiding any exercises done flat on your back.
When in doubt? Call your doc. They’ll know what your body can and can’t handle and can provide tailored guidelines for a prenatal fitness program that suits your needs.
About the author
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more.