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Working Out During Pregnancy: Keeping Your Routine Safe and Effective Throughout Each Trimester
by Kristeen Cherney
Pregnancy marks a time when you need to make tweaks to your lifestyle for the sake of your baby. This includes getting rid of alcohol and junk food, as well as smoking if you have not done so already. However, exercise is definitely not something you should neglect at this time of your life. It’s not safe to play contact sports or do balancing workouts, such as bike riding, but you should not stop exercising altogether. Aside from the benefits of working out, safe exercise alone does not cause miscarriage. The key is to learn the safest and most effective workouts during each stage of your pregnancy and to modify your routine accordingly.
First Trimester: Keep Up Your Current Routine
Ideally, you should have established a workout routine before pregnancy. If this is the case, then your doctor will likely give you the go-ahead to keep up normal activities throughout the first trimester. Runners can still run, and gym-goers can still lift weights and use most machines. The key difference during this transition has to do with the method you lift weights: ideally, you should not lift them above your head so you don’t strain your neck or abdomen. As long as your doctor gives the OK, you may still perform exercises laying down, including sit-ups. Many women take advantage of this small window of time during the first trimester to strengthen their abdominal muscles while they can. You certainly can—and you should—do weight-training for your abs for toning and strength.
If you failed to exercise before pregnancy, this doesn’t mean you need to wait 9+ months to start routine. Begin by walking as much as you can, working up to at least 30 minutes per day. Walking and swimming are both ideal if you’re battling morning sickness. Add some strength-training to the mix to help build muscles you’ll need during pregnancy, delivery, and beyond.
Second Trimester: Start Making Modifications
As you progress away from the days of morning sickness, you’re likely entering your second trimester. You can still exercise to stay in shape at this point, but this is also the time to start modifying your routine. Any workout that includes jumping or lying on your back is off-limits because such movements strain your abdomen and increase the risk for miscarriage. Raul Artal, OB-GYN, explains to Baby Center that between 6 and 10 percent of women rapidly lose blood pressure when lying down, which can harm a developing fetus. Walking and swimming are still preferred because they are safe while still providing resistance and cardiovascular benefits. However, you can also try prenatal yoga and workouts on the treadmill, elliptical machine, and stationary bike. To maintain and strengthen ab muscles, make sure you sit up straight with your chest forward.
Third Trimester: Walking is Your Best Bet
The third trimester may be the most unappealing stage to work out due to an aching back, swelling legs, and fatigue. You should not give up at this point: not only does exercise benefit both you and the baby throughout the latter stages of pregnancy, but exercising can also ward off excess weight gain during this home-stretch. In fact, most of the weight gained during pregnancy occurs in the last trimester because the baby is growing at a more rapid weight and you’re building more fluids in preparation for delivery.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
For the sake of you and your baby, it’s important to maintain a safe and consistent exercise routine throughout pregnancy. Still, there are times when it’s definitely acceptable to stop working out. You should not keep exercising if you:
- feel faint
- become breathless
- experience vaginal discharge
- feel feverish
- experience any pain
- start feeling contractions
You should see a doctor ASAP if you experience any of these symptoms. Also, talk to him or her if you’re new to exercise or are unsure about how to modify your current routine. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you’ll likely need to take extra precautions during exercise as outlined by your physician.
- Exercise During Pregnancy: What You Can Do for a Healthy Pregnancy. (2010, August). Retrieved from http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/pregnancy-newborns/your-body/exercise-during-pregnancy-what-you-can-do-for-a-healthy-pregnancy.printerview.html
- Is it Safe to do Sit-Ups or Abdominal Crunches During Pregnancy? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.babycenter.com/406_is-it-safe-to-do-sit-ups-or-abdominal-crunches-during-pregna_1246888.bc
- Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines. (2013, January). Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/exerciseguidelines.html
Author Bio: Kristeen Cherney is a freelance health and lifestyle writer who also has a certificate in nutrition. Her work has been published on numerous health-related websites since 2009. Previously, she worked as a communications and marketing professional and officially changed careers after the birth of her son. Kristeen holds a BA in Communication from Florida Gulf Coast University, and is currently pursuing an MA in English with a concentration in rhetoric and cultural studies. When she’s not writing or studying, she enjoys walking, kick-boxing, yoga, and traveling.