Doing daily exercises for pregnancy may not be at the top of the list of things you want to do when you find out you’re expecting. Especially in the first trimester, when fatigue is at it’s worst and you’re feeling pretty crummy already.
However, regularly exercising and staying fit are so, so important for a healthy pregnancy. Of course, sometimes that feels easier said than done. After all, pregnancy often comes with a myriad of symptoms that leave us in the mood for anything but exercising.
It’s also important to be aware that not every exercise is safe during pregnancy. Even those that are often require you to be extra cautious.
So what exercises can you do? Is it even worth putting in the effort? And how do you ensure you’re staying safe while staying fit?
I am not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.
Staying Fit During Pregnancy
In retrospect, I kind of wish I had done more in the way of exercising when I was pregnant with my son. I think it would have ultimately helped me out more in many ways.
As far as I can remember, the most I really did was take a daily walk down the road and back. Occasionally my hubby and I would go for a swim at the pool at our apartment complex. But that was pretty much the extent of my exercising.
But it’s not something I beat myself up over. Why? Because I did what I felt I could at the time, with what I knew to do at the time. As newlyweds, we didn’t have access to a gym or even a good walking neighborhood. And I had never made an intentional effort to exercise before in my life.
Bottom line: there’s more I could have done, and probably even had energy for, but I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know what kind of exercises I could fit into my day, and honestly taking a nap just sounded better.
So walking was all I did. And if that’s you, don’t sweat it. Do what you can with the space and resources you have available. But if you’re wanting a little more, keep reading for more simple exercises you can safely do while pregnant.
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
You might be wondering if it’s even safe to exercise while you’re pregnant. The answer is yes!
In fact, it’s highly encouraged. Exercising has a lot of benefits for pregnancy, which we’ll cover in just a second.
It is worth nothing, though, that not every form of exercise is safe. Some forms of exercise should be avoided in order to protect your body as it changes, and to protect your growing baby.
What kind of exercises should you avoid during pregnancy?
Generally speaking, you should be avoiding any exercises that put your body and your unborn baby at risk.
During pregnancy, your body undergoes a lot of changes in order to provide your baby with everything it needs to grow. It’s far easier to hurt yourself when you’re pregnant than when you’re not. For that reason, it’s important to be careful and take extra precautions.
Here are a few things to take into consideration when you’re exercising.
Low impact exercises
First and foremost, you want to avoid any high impact and high contact exercises. Any exercise that puts your bump at risk for being hit is out.
Don’t worry—if you have a toddler that likes to give you a running hug you’ll be just fine. Smaller impacts such as toddler hugs is unlikely to be enough to harm your baby.
But you don’t want to regularly perform exercises that could potentially have your stomach hit forcefully. This includes exercises that put you at risk for falling.
Joints and ligaments
When you’re expecting, especially towards the third trimester, your body releases a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin is a natural hormone that helps your joints and ligaments to relax. Ultimately this helps your body to provide room for baby. It also helps your baby to move through the birth canal when the time comes.
While Relaxin is necessary, it also affects all your other joints as well as those in your pelvis. This can make it far easier to hurt your joints and ligaments. While this may not directly harm your baby, it puts you at a higher risk of injury yourself.
Both your growing bump and the hormone Relaxin can mess with your sense of balance. This is especially true the further along you are. And of course, when you are off balance you are more likely to fall.
That’s why you want to avoid exercises that may cause you to lose your balance more easily. Think things like riding a bike, or horseback riding. Anything that could hurt you or your baby if you were to lose your balance and fall.
What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
As long as you’re excising safely and staying hydrated, regularly exercising has a lot of benefits for your pregnancy.
Appropriate weight gain
For women with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, the average weight gained during pregnancy should be 25-35 pounds. Of course, everyone is different, and some of will gain more or less than the recommended amount.
Staying fit and active during pregnancy can help you maintain an appropriate amount of weight throughout pregnancy. It may also help you shed the baby weight easier when the time comes.
Keeping a healthy pregnancy weight is important for your health. It lowers your risk of health complications postpartum, and will help you feel much better too.
Keeps your body healthy and strong
Besides keeping your weight in a healthy range, exercising during pregnancy also helps to keep your body healthy and strong. This is especially important during a time when your body is more vulnerable to sickness and injury.
Keeping yourself healthy will help your baby stay healthy as well.
Eases some common pregnancy symptoms
Keeping your pregnancy body in shape is also a good way to reduce some of your pregnancy symptoms. Things like back pain, pain in your joints and ligaments, and leg cramps can all be reduced by regularly moving your body.
You may also find that it helps ease other symptoms such as digestive issues, and constipation. Moving your body is one of the best ways to help your metabolism and digestive system work properly.
Easier labor and delivery
Here’s one benefit I think we can all get on board with: easier labor and delivery! While it’s not a guaranteed result, having a fit, healthy body can help you to have an easier labor.
Fit muscles will be more effective at pushing than weak ones. Anything you can do to increase your muscle strength and flexibility, especially in your core and pelvic region, will be an asset for labor.
While everyone’s labor is different and there are no guarantees when it comes to childbirth, keeping your body in decent shape will only help you. You may find your labor is shorter, or just easier on your body.
Improve your postpartum recovery
Without going into great detail, we’ll just say postpartum recovery was rough on me. Even though I had been taking a short daily walk for most of my pregnancy, I still wasn’t in the best of shape. And it definitely took a toll on my recovery time.
The better shape you’re in when you have your baby, the better your postpartum experience is likely to be. Recovery from sort of injury or marathon experience is always better when you go into it with a healthy body. A childbirth is definitely a marathon experience!
How much exercise should you be getting?
Now that we understand how beneficial it is to do pregnancy exercises daily, how much exercise should you actually be getting?
The American Collage of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise daily, or 150 minutes over the course of a week.
Personally, I think exercising a bit every day is easier and more beneficial than fewer, longer sessions a few days a week. That’s been my experience, anyway. But feel free to experiment and see what frequency and length of exercise works best for you and your body!
Safe Exercises For Pregnancy
So what exercises can you do during pregnancy? For most healthy women, as long as the exercise isn’t high impact/contact, you’ll likely be able to do it.
Keep in mind that if you wish to start a new exercise that you weren’t doing pre-pregnancy, you may need to take it slow. Some high intensity exercises may be best learned after you’ve had your baby and are no longer pregnant.
Of course, always check with your doctor first. Your doctor will be able to advise you on what is best for you and your individual body and pregnancy. With that in mind, here are ten exercises most healthy pregnant women will be able to do.
Probably the simplest thing to do, stretching has big benefits during pregnancy. It may not seem like a huge thing, but simply keeping your muscles and joints limber and flexible can really help your body.
Stretching daily can help keep your body moving well, and help prevent injuries from occurring. It also helps the blood to flow more freely through your body.
Even if you do nothing else, take a few minutes every day to stretch. Be careful to not overstretch! Only stretch as far as feels comfortable to you, or just to the point of feeling resistance.
One of the simplest exercises to do during pregnancy is simply walking. The more you can do the better, but don’t discount even the smallest amounts.
If you’re feeling too tired, start with just walking around your house for a few minutes. Built up a little at a time as you are able. If you have enough energy to make it down the road or around your block, even better!
Pilates is currently my favorite way to workout, and it’s pregnancy safe too! It’s is a great way to build strength, and increase your flexibility and mobility. Pilates has helped ease so many of my every day aches and pains.
This is also a great way to build core strength, which is important during pregnancy. All you need is a quality mat, and you’re good to do it anywhere.
I personally am part of the the Balanced Life Sisterhood, led by Robin Long. I love that her online workouts range from 15-30 minutes, which makes it easy to fit into my busy day. It works, and it’s fun! You can click here to join today and get $20 off your Sisterhood membership!
*Some workouts/positions may need to be modified to be appropriate for pregnancy. I highly recommend checking out Robin’s Prenatal Pilates program, which you can purchase separately from her membership program. Prenatal workouts are also available within the Sisterhood membership.
Swimming is probably one of the best exercises for pregnancy! And one of my personal favorites. As long as you know how to swim, its a great way to get in quality exercise.
One of the great things about swimming is that you don’t have to feel all sweaty and gross. And as you progress through your pregnancy, the water will help you out with your bump as well. Water naturally helps you carry your own weight through buoyancy.
So if you have access to a pool, and know how to swim, definitely take advantage of that! Assuming it’s warm enough, or an indoor pool, swimming is a great way to fit in some exercise and have fun at the same time.
5. Exercise Bike
While biking is not safe during pregnancy, due to a decreased ability to balance and the risk of falling, riding an indoor stationary bike is still considered safe for most pregnant women.
I recently got a stationary bike, and have been using it regularly. It’s great for when it’s too cold outside, or when we can’t get out for some reason. The one I got is also small and foldable, which makes it a great option if you live in an apartment like we do.
Okay, I know very few of us actually enjoy doing squats. But, it’s still a great exercise to do, and safe during pregnancy.
Squats are also great for building strength in the pelvis, and opening up your pelvis. Both are important as you prepare for labor and delivery. And it can help your labor go smoother, too!
I kind of have a love-hate relationship with planks. They aren’t my favorite, but I also like them a lot more than some other exercises. And I’m getting much better at them, which makes me like them more.
Anyway. Planks are a great way to build core strength. Core strength helps prevent problems such as back pain. But it’s also important to help you through labor and delivery. Any strength you can build in your core will help!
Ah, Kegels. I’ll be honest, I still struggle to correctly do Kegels. Although, I’ve gotten better at them with help from the Balanced Life Sisterhood.
If you can learn to do them correctly, however, Kegels are one of the best ways to build up strength in your pelvic floor. While this may not seem important at the moment, it will soon enough.
Your pelvic floor is usually weakened quite a bit by childbirth. And for a lot of moms, it can leave annoying problems like incontinence. In other cases, you can end up with more serious problems like prolapse and the collapse of your pelvic floor.
Bottom line: do what you can to strengthen your pelvic floor now! It will help with your delivery, and recovery. And once you are able to start Kegels after your baby is born, start working to build up that strength again.
While this probably isn’t something you want to start if you weren’t doing it pre-pregnancy, running can be a good source of exercise. If you were a runner before, you can continue running through your pregnancy.
There may come a time when you’re a bit too out of breathe to run. But while you can, enjoy it. Even short runs can be beneficial to you.
10. Weight lifting
Weight lifting may sound a bit crazy to be safe during pregnancy. Now, to be fair, you shouldn’t be doing any extreme or heavy weight lifting. But, lifting smaller weights is safe for most healthy women.
Think smaller, weights such as five to ten pounds. No more than you’d lift going about your business at home. You don’t want to risk hurting your abdomen or putting a lot of strain on it.
But, lifting even small weights can help you tone your muscles, and even build new ones. You don’t even need actual weights to do this. Try lifting a bottle of laundry detergent to start.
Tips For Safe Pregnancy Exercises
Whatever exercises you choose to do during pregnancy, you want to be careful as you do them. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your workout time while keeping your body and baby protected.
First and foremost, be sure to stay hydrated! Pregnancy already requires more water than usual, and exercise can easily deplete your body’s resources.
Drink often, even just small sips, and give yourself time to rest and rehydrate afterwards. If you can’t stomach a lot of water, try sucking on ice chips or eating freeze pops or popsicles. These often sit better when you’re struggling to stay hydrated due to nausea.
Fuel your body
While exercises are good for pregnancy, it’s also important to make sure you properly fuel your body. Eating well is important at any point in your pregnancy. And sometimes that means adding in a snack to replenish nutrients after a workout.
Be sure to eat nutrient dense meals and snacks. Don’t fill up on junk. Instead, focus on wholefoods that replenish what you lost. You may find that including a protein also helps you feel a lot better as well!
Build up slowly
This should go without saying, but if you plan to start a new exercise routine, make sure you start slowly and build up. Building up slowly to your desired strength or stamina is a good practice for exercises, whether you’re pregnant or not.
But when you’re pregnant, you especially want to take extra care. Be gentle with your body, and ease into things. Starting slowly and taking your time to build up will help you prevent injuries. And it will feel a lot better too.
Don’t overdue it
Even if you’re doing pregnancy safe exercises, it’s important to not overdue it. Know your limits, and respect them.
It’s okay to “push” yourself a little bit—that’s how we build new strength. But you also need to know when it’s time to stop.
You don’t want to push yourself to a point of dehydration, or strain, or anything that could cause an injury. It’s likely to take longer to get to the point you want to be, and that’s okay. Give yourself lots of grace, and know that it’s okay to do less during this time.
Avoid rough terrain
Whether you’re walking, running, or any other outdoor exercise, try to stay where the ground isn’t rough. Particularly in your third trimester, when your balance is at it’s worst, uneven ground can provide more opportunities to trip and fall.
And falling is one thing you want to avoid during pregnancy! Stick to even ground whenever you can when you’re working out.
Again, do what you need to do to stay balanced. Pregnancy has a way of messing with our balance, and it can prove to be a bit of a hazard while exercising.
If your balance is really off, you may find that some exercises that are considered safe during pregnancy just aren’t a good fit for you at the moment. That’s okay. It’s okay to explore other exercises to find something that helps you stay fit while still maintaining your balance.
Get enough rest
Don’t fall into the trap of all work and no play. Or in this case, all workout and no rest. Pregnancy is a tiring time, and it demands a lot from our bodies.
Give yourself plenty of time to rest during and after workouts. Sometimes the best thing for our bodies is not to do more but to rest more. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Practice regular fitness for a better pregnancy!
As much as you are able, try to fit in some regular exercising into your day. Even if it’s just a short walk, the movement will help you feel better and maintain a healthier pregnancy.
There’s really no end to the benefits of staying active during pregnancy. Just remember to take it easy and give yourself lots of grace. Be gentle with your body and recognize the amazing thing it’s doing. Practicing safe pregnancy exercises is just another way to support your body during this incredibly time.