Now that I’m in my 4th trimester, I can now see the benefits of staying active during pregnancy. Not only was it beneficial during my pregnancy, but also after delivery.
As my belly grew, working out reduced my lower back pain and lowered my risk of pregnancy-related diseases. It helped me tone my muscles and boosted my mood and energy. Exercising really helped me strengthen my body for labor, delivery, and beyond. I gained muscle tone while it boosted my mood and energy and maintained a normal body weight. Overall, I gained 20 pounds during my pregnancy. Most of the weight came in my third trimester as Carter started rapidly growing.
Working out throughout my pregnancy also helped me recover very well post-delivery. It’s like muscle memory and my body knew how to get back to pre-baby and handle the C-section surgery. To be honest, I was rarely in pain after my C-section. In general, staying on top of your fitness can help you recover well from surgery. When I had my mastectomy (I was in pain for months with this one!), I saw how my body was able to heal itself.
As a guideline to working out during pregnancy, the American College of Obstreticians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women to be active / workout at least 150 minutes per week. That’s about 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
Best Workouts For Pregnant Women
Before getting started on exercising during pregnancy, I encourage and recommend that you please talk to your doctor and healthcare provider prior to starting. I’m not a medical health professional and I’m sharing based on my personal experience. I was active before pregnancy and therefore I was given the OK to workout during my pregnancy.
Also, only workout based on YOUR fitness level. Never ever try something new. Like I said, you just want to be active and get your body moving and the blood flowing. You don’t need to start something that your body has not been used to.
Brisk walking is the easiest way to stay active during pregnancy. You can even break it up during the day (such as doing 3 10-minute walks) so you don’t need to do it all at once. I personally enjoy walking, especially on a beautiful day. It gets my heart rate up and it helps the baby get into an optimal delivery position. This is great for all trimesters.
Swimming Or Water Aerobics
Swimming is so gentle on your joints. If you are looking for a workout that combines cardio, toning, and low impact then swimming is seriously the perfect workout during pregnancy. Any exercise in the water is low impact and it can be done in all trimesters. As you move further into your pregnancy, the length of time may be reduced. Just listen to your body.
Jogging / Running
I only recommend running or jogging as an exercise during pregnancy if this is something you did prior to getting pregnant. If so then it is considered a safe pregnancy workout. Just listen to your body and slow down when needed. I’d say this is the safest in the first and second trimester.
If jogging, swimming, or walking is not for you, indoor cycling is another great cardio option that you can do throughout your pregnancy. The Peloton bike is currently popular yet pricey. I’ve heard the Cyclace Stationary Bike is a great alternative option. It’s MUCH more affordable.
Strengthening Your Core
Working your core is so important throughout pregnancy. You definitely want to avoid any core workouts that require crunching, twisting your torso, or laying on your back too long.
In every workout, you should be engaging your core. This action is also known as “hugging your baby”. Core workouts are great for all trimesters. The best time to really focus on your core is your first trimester. In my opinion, I think my body recovered well from the C-section because throughout my pregnancy I strengthened my core by engaging it in every exercise.
Squats are a great way to maintain strength and gain range of motion in your hips, glutes, core, pelvic muscles, and they improve posture. They even help with the birthing process. Also, squat workouts help prepare you for picking up and down the baby instead of using your back.
Proper way to squat:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Engage your core
- Slowly lower yourself and make sure your knees don’t go pass your toes. Go only as low as you’re comfortable with while maintaining your back straight.
- Make sure you weight is in your heels and not on your toes.
- Then slowly get back up and return to starting position and squeezing your glutes on the way up.
You have the option to add weights/dumbbells but bodyweight works just as great!
Strength training is any type of resistance training exercise. This typically involves using dumbbells, resistance bands, recovery bands, etc. Most of my workouts during my pregnancy had been strength training and I did it for all trimesters. I was building muscles and toning them and modified the workouts as my belly grew. If you don’t have weights, you can just use two water bottles.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Working on your pelvic muscles is so important because it prepares your body for delivery! So you should for sure be doing this all trimesters, especially in the 3rd trimester. Examples of pelvic floor exercises are kegel exercises, pelvic tilts and deep squats.
For instance, to do a pelvic tilt exercise I recommend sitting on a stability ball and push your hips forwards and then push your hips back. At the same time, continue to engage your core.
Lunges are great because they really work your leg muscles and keep it strong to hold your bodyweight as the baby continues to grow. Your lower body bears most of the extra weight as the belly grows. Just make sure to do lunges properly.
Proper Way to Lunge:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Engage your core.
- Take a large step with your left leg.
- Lower your body by bending your knees and make sure your left knee does not go past your left toes. Make sure your upper body is upright and lower your hips and shoulders straight down.
- Lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Then return to the start position
- And do the same with your right leg.
Feel free to add weights, but using your bodyweight is already a good resistance.
Deadlifts help with your lower back (and glutes and core) and I truly think this is what helped ease up on my backaches. While most of my backaches started in the 3rd trimester, it doesn’t hurt to start building your lower back muscles early.
Proper way to deadlift:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your core.
- Knees are slightly bent.
- Hold your weights in front of you and keep them close to your thighs.
- Hinge at the waist and lower your body. You should not be using your knees. As you lower, continue to keep the weights close to you.
- Keep back straight. If you are engaging your core, your back will be straight and not hunched.
- Go as low as you are comfortable with and you’ll feel the hamstring tighten.
- Then slowly roll back up and return to your starting position.
This exercise works your upper back. Working out your entire back is important because it helps stabilize and counter the extra weight you are carrying in the front. I love bent rows because they will help you build strength for when the baby arrives. You’ll be lifting the baby (in and out of the crib) and you want to make sure that upper back is strong.
Proper way to do a bent row:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with weights on each hand.
- Engage your core.
- Bend over at a 45-degree angle. Make sure back is straight and not arched or hunched.
- Lift the weights straight up. Your arms will not go higher than your shoulder. You should feel your shoulder blades pinch together.
- Slowly lower the weights back down.
Workout Class Specifically For Prenatal
Sometimes the best way to ensure you are getting the best workout while pregnant is going to a workout class specially geared towards pregnant women. You can take a prenatal yoga class or prenatal strength training class. I downloaded the app Tone It Up and used their prenatal workout programs. All their prenatal workouts are great for all trimesters.
I also used a personal trainer the first 16 weeks of pregnancy because I wanted to be sure I was working out properly while I was pregnant.
Exercise Safety Tips for Pregnant Women
Clearance From Your Doctor
Always speak to your healthcare provider first! They know what’s best for you.
Drink Plenty of Water
You should be drinking lots of water during your pregnancy. If you are working out, you need to increase your water intake. I highly recommend this water bottle for pregnancy.
Don’t be afraid to modify your exercise. High intensity workouts are not for every pregnant woman. Just because a workout is low impact and a non-contact exercise does not mean you will not get a good workout. Your body is still working.
I modified exercises all the time when I was pregnant. If a workout had a jump squat, I didn’t jump to prevent the risk of falling. A pregnant woman’s center of gravity changes as the belly grows and I was definitely off balance. Instead of jumping, I went up to my toes. It has the same benefit just safer for me and the baby.
Wear Supportive Clothing
What you wear makes a difference because your clothes need to support that growing bump and your constantly changing body. I mentioned that I wish I invested in more maternity clothes. I highly recommend getting maternity workout leggings. You’ll thank me especially when you’re in your third trimester. My favorite pair was from Fabletics. Unfortunately, they don’t make them anymore. But I’m sharing some other great options below.
Hope this is helpful!