Fitness Through Each Stage of Pregnancy



Staying active is essential to a healthy life, but even more so when growing and nurturing a new one. Previous generations of moms-to-be were told to do little more than rest for the entirety of their pregnancy. How things have changed! 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day while pregnant can help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling. It also can prevent or treat gestational diabetes, improve mood, muscle tone and help you sleep better. Not only can exercise make your pregnancy more manageable, it can increase your odds of an easier delivery. 

Exercising while pregnant however, may leave you feeling anxious. How much is too much? What exercises are safe? Are there any restrictions the further along you get into your pregnancy? Fortunately, we’ve got the scoop to keep you moving and grooving right up to your delivery day. 

First Trimester
As soon as you see that positive on the pregnancy test, make an appointment with your doctor. Most practitioners typically schedule you for your first check-up around 9 weeks. If you’re already fairly active and exercising regularly, your doctor will more than likely give you the green light to continue your normal routine, albeit with a few modifications along the way. If you were not exercising regularly prior to pregnancy, it’s not too late! Start slow by committing to at least 10 minutes of activity a day and work your way up. 

Recommended exercises:

  • Walking. By far, walking is one of the best activities you can do throughout pregnancy. Many women experience nausea and extreme fatigue during the first trimester. This is a great way to stay active without putting too much strain on your body during those first 13 weeks. 
  • Swimming. Fitness instructor and mom of two Ashley Mendoza says, “The water provides gentle resistance which allows you to burn calories while alleviating pressure on your joints. Additionally, if you swim or walk laps, it can provide cardiovascular training.” Water workouts also can help counteract that trademark first trimester queasiness, according to WhatToExpect.com
  • Prenatal yoga. “Hormone changes during pregnancy increase your risk of dislocating joints,” Mendoza says. “Yoga helps to mitigate this, while increasing flexibility.” Check out yoga studios, like Darling Yoga in Overland Park, that offer specific programs for expecting moms. 

Second Trimester
Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first trimester! This means the nausea is probably waning, and your energy is beginning to return. It’s the perfect time to consider that aqua zumba class you’ve been eyeing. However, you should hold off on some activities until after Baby is born. 

  • Rough exercises. Skiing and gymnastics seem like obvious no-no’s during pregnancy, but did you know that basketball and outdoor cycling are also discouraged? Unless you’re playing doubles, vigorous tennis matches are frowned upon as well.
  • High-altitude activities. If you don’t live in a high-altitude area, consider staying below 6,000 feet. 
  • Underwater fun. Scuba diving can cause decompression sickness for your baby, so it’s best to refrain until you’re swimming solo again.
  • Back exercises. Lying on your back is no longer an option once you reach the second trimester. It can hinder oxygen flow and circulation to the baby. 
  • Mendoza also advises getting a heart rate monitor. “The best investment you can make at this point is a heart rate monitor. It ensures you’re keeping your heart rate in a healthy range without overdoing yourself.”

Third Trimester
You’re now in the home stretch. The last trimester is typically the one most riddled with small aches and pains. You may be feeling especially uncomfortable in your lower abdomen and pelvis as the baby grows larger and bears down. While now might seem like the perfect time to cozy up in bed, you’ll actually benefit more from continuing to stay active. Lace up your sneakers and let’s go!

Recommended exercises:

  • Ball workout. Using an exercise ball during workouts can increase coordination, balance and posture while providing support to your pelvis and hips. From arm and leg lifts to crunches and modified bridge, you’ll find the versatility you need to keep workouts interesting.
  • Squats. Working out your lower half is especially important throughout the final stretch in pregnancy. It stretches the hips, widens the pelvic opening and can speed labor up. There are several variations of squats and plenty of modifications so that even the most inexperienced can participate.

Making fitness a priority throughout your pregnancy is a great way to ensure a healthier YOU after the baby is born. Don’t forget to rest, however. “It is extremely important to listen to your body when it says stop. If you push too hard, you could dislocate a joint or even trigger premature labor,” Mendoza says. “Balance is key!” 

As always, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning or continuing any fitness routines. Cheers to a happy, healthy pregnancy!

Jennifer Bosse is a former KC mama who now lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband and two sons. She enjoys staying active with her family.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns. 

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