The many health benefits of exercising during your first trimester have been well-documented: You’ll sleep better, improve your mood and reduce stress, keep weight off before and after delivery, lower the likelihood of a cesarean section and premature birth, and reduce the risk of type II diabetes for your baby.
Creating an Exercise Plan
Whether you rarely exercised before pregnancy or you are a top-tier athlete, you should consult your physician to create a customized exercise plan that accounts for your history, health considerations, and any risks or complications for your pregnancy.
James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University who has conducted extensive research on exercise and pregnancy, recommends that the goal of any first-trimester exercise plan be moderation. Aim for exercise that does not exceed 90% of your heart’s maximum beats per minute, stay well hydrated, and try to exercise somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes each day.
On board but unsure exactly what exercises to do? These seven types of workouts are perfect for your first trimester and will help you maintain overall health while keeping you and your baby safe.
1. Walking and Running
These two activities are some of the best cardiovascular workouts for pregnant women. All you need is a comfortable pair of supportive shoes, and you’ll be on your way to building endurance and strengthening your heart. Aim for a moderate increase in your heart rate — no sprints necessary — and start at a comfortable pace before gradually increasing your stride.
Touted as one of the safest full-body exercises for pregnant women, swimming combines cardiovascular benefits with muscle-building for arms and legs. Moreover, swimming may reduce swelling in your hands, ankles, and feet, and it is an excellent low-impact workout for women experiencing lower back pain.
3. Dancing (and Other Aerobics)
As long as your dance routine does not include jumping, leaping, or twirling, feel free to keep your heart pounding to the beat of your favorite music. If you don’t like to dance, consider joining a group aerobics class — there are even some designed specifically for moms-to-be. In a prenatal exercise class, you can enjoy the company and camaraderie of other future mothers and have the security of knowing every movement has been designed for safety.
4. Stationary Cycling or Spinning
If you are already comfortable on a bicycle, you are fine to continue riding it during your first trimester; however, beginning with your second trimester, you should switch to a stationary bike at home or in a spinning class to avoid the risk of falling. (The same advice applies to other exercises that might involve contact, like basketball, soccer, horseback riding, surfing, gymnastics, skiing, or mountain biking.)
Many moms-to-be love yoga for its ability to tone muscle and improve flexibility without placing stress on tender joints. Skip the Bikram and hot yoga classes – the pregnant body cannot disperse heat as effectively – and for peak heart health, mix in a light jog or a swimming session once or twice a week.
Avoid any poses that ask you to lie on your back, which will put pressure on your vena cava and could cause you to feel short of breath, dizzy, and nauseated.
A once-per-week Pilates workout can develop and challenge core strength, improve your balance, and mitigate that pesky lower back pain. As with yoga poses, you’ll want to avoid any Pilates moves that have you lying on your back and be mindful not to overexert yourself, particularly with stomach stretches.
Even if you don’t take formal Pilates or yoga classes, stretching for several minutes in conjunction with cardiovascular exercises is essential for a complete workout.
While strength training is typically safe if you follow guidelines for pregnant women, check with your doctor before beginning a new weight training program. Always move in a slow and controlled manner, either with free weights or on weight machines. Do not lie on your back or hold weights over your stomach.
Whether you’ve got questions about exercising while pregnant, what to expect during each trimester, or anything related to your pregnancy or childbirth, Tri-City Medical Center has you covered. Check out our Pregnancy & Newborn Care division for classes, free video content, and much more.