Exercise Guide for Pregnancy
Proper exercise is a wonderful way to support your body and your baby through pregnancy. Your body will be undergoing many changes over the next 9 months, so shifting your exercise routine throughout the process will keep you & baby strong and vital.
Including exercise in your daily pregnancy routine does not have to involve a big time commitment or fancy equipment. Choose the exercises that are most accessible for you!
LISTEN to your body + baby
Be KIND to your body + baby
Do what is RIGHT for YOU & baby
*Always make sure you have your health care provider’s clearance to engage in physical activity.
The first trimester is filled with joy and excitement, but can also be accompanied by discomfort. Increased fatigue and nausea are commonly experienced leading to a lessened desire to do much at all. You might not look pregnant; however, significant biological and musculoskeletal changes are occurring in the body, and your baby is going through its greatest development phase.
Yoga. If you have been practicing yoga for some time and have a strong practice, you can continue to practice with gentle modifications. Starting a yoga practice in your first trimester, however, is not recommended.
Poses that should always be avoided are inversions, jumping in Sun Salutations, camel pose, and bridge pose. This is because these positions can threaten the implantation of the fetus and placenta.
If you choose to practice yoga, keep your focus mostly on breathing and light stretches.
Swimming. This is a beneficial exercise because it provides a cardiovascular workout while toning your muscles. The water will support your growing belly, take pressure off of our back and minimize joint strain. If you choose this as your main exercise, aim to swim for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week.
Weight Training. Safe options are free weights and resistance training machines. This will increase your muscle tone and overall strength. If you were weight training before becoming pregnant, the best way to modify your practice is by reducing the weights used and increasing the repetitions. Remember to keep your breathing smooth and steady throughout.
Kegels. This exercise strengthens and tones the muscles on your pelvic floor, which are important during delivery. Your kegel muscles are the muscle that you use to hold back urine. Aim to incorporate kegel exercises into your daily routine.
To start, contract your kegel muscles as tightly as you can for 5 seconds, and repeat this 5 times. That is one set. Try to fit in 5-10 sets throughout the day.
- Lower the impact of all exercises from day 1. High impact exercise during pregnancy can cause future issues, including incontinence, later in life. This can be done by taking the ‘jump’ out of regular moves, slowing the pace, sitting while weight training, and reducing the distance with run work.
- Avoid very heavy weights. These can cause significant outward abdominal stress
- Avoid rapid position changes. Slower transitions between poses and moves will ensure your blood pressure does not spike and will reduce dizziness and breathlessness.
- Stop exercising if you begin to overheat. If you feel your temperature rise, your face flush, or your heart rate spike, slow down and take a break. Sip on water until your body temperature returns to normal.
A physical change your body undergoes during the second trimester that will affect your exercise routine is the introduction and production of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin loosens your joints to prepare for labor and delivery. Loosened joints increase the risk of injuries, such as sprains and strains. This physiological change should be kept in mind when engaging in all forms of physical activity, including stretching.
Yoga. The second trimester is the most common time women begin a prenatal yoga practice. Gentle, strengthening yoga poses will help you optimally stretch your muscles, reduce pregnancy pains, and lower blood pressure. An important aspect of prenatal yoga is breathing. Practicing breathing techniques during yoga will be very beneficial for labor, delivery, and for stressful parenting moments!
Poses that should be avoided are any that involve the potential to fall, such as warrior poses and tree pose, abdomen twisting, inversions, laying on your back, and backbends. If you are in a pose that is safe, but feel uncomfortable, stop right away. “Hot” or Bikram yoga should also be avoided as a high body temperature can endanger the baby and/or cause dehydration.
Walking. This beneficial exercise is one that can be incorporated all the way until delivery. To enhance this exercise during the second trimester, place more emphasis on larger arm movements as this will help build upper body strength and flexibility while toning your legs. Walking at a faster pace during this trimester is encouraged.
Back-Strengthening Resistance Training. The larger your stomach grows, the more important back exercises become. This form of exercise will help you to perform everyday activities with greater ease and make delivery easier.
Swimming. Water exercise is beneficial during the second trimester, as well. As your belly gets larger, swimming becomes safer as there is no danger of falling while exercising. Water aerobics and general swimming is low impact, soothing, strength-building, and increases your aerobic capacity. Movements to strengthen your core muscles, without twisting your abdomen, should be the focus.
- Start to modify positions. Avoid lying on your back for long periods of time, lying on your stomach and using heavy weight over your head. Try to tuck your tailbone and pull your belly in and up and you move.
- Avoid all isometric exercises. This type of exercise can increase the heart rate of your baby.
- Avoid over stretching. It can cause instability and problems in the future.
By the third trimester, your body might feel significantly heavier leading to tiredness from the natural physical activity required to complete daily tasks. Sometimes stretching can feel like too much of a burden. During this time, be more sensitive to how your body responds to physical activity. However, exercise should still be incorporated as it can increase energy, improve mood, and to boost blood circulation.
Stretching- These poses will support the body for labor.
Butterfly stretch: Sit with your legs outstretched, bend your right leg and place your right foot as high up as possible on your left thigh. Place your right hand on top of the bent right knee. If you can reach, hold your toes of the right foot with the left hand. While breathing in, gently move your right knee up towards your chest. Breathing out, push the knee down try to touch the floor. Repeat with left leg, doing 10 up and down movements with each leg.
Sleeping abdominal stretch pose: Lie on your back, interlock your fingers of both hands and place your hands beneath your head. Bend your knees, keeping your soles of your feet on the floor. Move your head in the other direction and repeat on the other side.
Horizontal cycling: Lay down on a mat or your bed and air cycle with both legs.
Kegels. During this trimester, contracting and relaxing your kegel muscles on your pelvic floor supports your internal organs, including your uterus. This will help prevent leaking when laughing or sneezing due to urinary incontinence.
Squats. This hip-opening position allows gravity to open the pelvis, causing the pelvic floor muscles to engage. If your heels cannot touch the ground, place a rolled-up towel or folded yoga mat underneath them. If this exercise does not cause pain, aim to do 2 minutes of work, 5-6 times a day. Start with 30 seconds at a time, and work your way up.
- Introduce positions that prepare for a smooth delivery. Run these positions past your health care provider before practicing. They can include resting in a deep squat, getting on all fours, laying on your left side, lunging with alternating legs, and swaying.
- Significantly reduce exercise intensity. Reserve energy for future delivery, but do not stop moving altogether.
- Treat yourself. Get a gentle massage, organic manicure, facial or anything that relaxes and soothes your body.
OVERALL BENEFITS OF EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
Thinking about taking a break from exercise for 9 months? These highly rewarding benefits might make you think otherwise:
o Higher cardiorespiratory fitness
o Less urinary incontinence
o Less back pain
o Better weight gain control
o Easier delivery
o Constipation relief
o Improved general mood and self-image
o Reduced depression risk
o Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
Stop exercising immediately if you have any of the following:
o Chest, leg, joint or stomach pain
o Dizziness or faintness
o Shortness of breath
o Vaginal bleeding
o Difficulty walking
o Monitor your heart rate – allows keep your BPM (beats per minute) below 140
o If you begin to lose your breath, take a break immediately
o Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after
o Avoid extreme temperatures
o Avoid contact or high impact sports
o Ensure your footwear supports your ankles and arches
o Always listen to your body