Here’s what you must know about prenatal exercise. Being physically active throughout your pregnancy is highly recommended and will make you feel good. But you must listen to your body to reduce risk of injury.
You deserve the best pregnancy exercises every week and your workouts must only include safe prenatal exercises. Regular exercise is beneficial for pregnant women if you avoid high impact exercise, hot yoga and many more dangerous activities as I have listed below.
You need to avoid any potentially dangerous exercises that could cause harm to you and baby. This is why your workouts need to be created and designed by a team of prenatal exercise specialists and exercise physiologists. Most gym-based personal trainers are not qualified to train pregnant women.
Exercising during Pregnancy Comes with Guidelines
Exercising during pregnancy does come with some precautions and guidelines. Ultimately you must stay safe during pregnancy for both you and baby. Your heart rate must not get too high. And due to the extra weight you are carrying your exercise routine must avoid high impact exercises.
It wasn’t that long ago that women were told to take it easy during pregnancy to avoid harming themselves and the baby. Fortunately, that advice has evolved as research continues to show the very real benefits of being physically active during all three trimesters.
In fact, studies show that exercise may help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, cesarean section, pre-term birth, preeclampsia, and excessive weight gain. Just how it works isn’t clearly understood just yet.
There are usually many questions that come to mind when planning how to exercise during pregnancy. So, this in-depth post will answer many of your questions.
Here is the most common question I get asked.
Is Exercise During Pregnancy Safe?
Overall exercise is safe during pregnancy and it is highly recommended by prenatal health care professionals. If you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy but you will need to modify your workouts.
From all the research I have read, exercise does not put you at risk for miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. You should consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine.
Body changes that affect exercise during pregnancy
There are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy. Your joints are more flexible from the hormones which cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy. Your center of gravity is shifted from the extra weight in the front, as well as, your shifting hips which impact on how you exercise.
This can affect your balance as you near your due date. The extra weight will also cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant. All of these factors may affect how you exercise and what exercises you choose to do.
Your Health & Well-being Matters when Pregnant
As your belly grows and your body changes, you must also change your workouts. The way you exercise in the third trimester will be different to the first trimester. That’s why I have designed a guided, realistic and achievable program to for every week of your pregnancy.
Some Gym Workouts Can be Dangerous!
I know what it is like to experience all the body changes and challenges of pregnancy. And my workouts have been designed just for pregnancy with each week in mind as your belly grows.
Hi, I’m Kerryn Boyle.
Throughout my pregnancy I was able to implement the skills and knowledge I have accumulated on prenatal exercise over the past ten years from teaching pregnant women how to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy. As a result, I was able to enjoy a more comfortable pregnancy and I experienced a positive and empowering labour.
Now, it’s your turn. I want to make sure you are only including safe and effective exercises in your workouts. This is vital for not only your safety, but also that of your growing baby.
So let’s get to it. Here is what I want you to know about exercising when pregnant.
Recommended Prenatal Exercises
- Prenatal Yoga.
- Prenatal Pilates.
- Kegel exercises.
- Pregnancy exercise classes.
- PregActive classes
Exercises to Avoid when Pregnant
- High intensity training.
- High-altitude training.
- Bouncing on a trampoline.
- Scuba Diving.
- Exercises which involve lying on the stomach.
- Road bike riding.
Prenatal Exercises For Each Trimester
1st Trimester Exercise
You generally don’t need to modify your activities too much during the first three months except it is a good time to start eliminating those exercises that are potentially dangerous. If you’ve been active, continue doing what you’re doing.
But what if you haven’t been active? Then now is actually the perfect time to begin. I want you to start slowly and work your way into exercise, much as you would if you weren’t pregnant.
2nd Trimester Exercise
By now, your belly is showing and starting to impact on how you move. It is now that I want you to stop doing any exercise that requires you to lie on your stomach or your back. Doing so could compress the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries de-oxygenated blood back to your heart.
When you weren’t pregnant, there were many benefits to using free weight when strength training. But now, it is a better idea to use machines as they control the movement.
ACOG’s guidelines note that 30 minutes of strenuous activity is well tolerated by pregnant women and their babies during the second trimester if they’ve been active.
3rd Trimester Exercise
OK, your belly is really impacting on your daily movements and activities.You will need to adjust other exercises as well to accommodate your growing belly. Choose safe activities that feel good to you since you’re more likely to stick with them as you progress through your pregnancy.
Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
Are you endlessly searching online about what exercises to avoid during pregnancy and only getting conflicting results?
You’re not alone.
You see, unfortunately there are a lot of ‘so-called’ prenatal exercise experts willing to give their view in order to make a quick buck.
This conflicting advice can not only be confusing, but also dangerous. So I want to set the record straight to keep you safe throughout your pregnancy.
What if You Did these Exercises before Pregnancy?
Great, if they helped you get fit. But they may not be appropriate now.
First, I want you to take the time and carefully select which exercises, workouts and classes you participate in when pregnant.
Your goals and your priorities have changed.
Now you’re pregnant, you must take into account your growing baby.
Because your growing baby may not respond well to certain exercises or sports.
What you were doing before getting pregnant may now cause harm. How you exercise now may be determined by your pre-pregnancy fitness level.
How you exercise now may also be determined by your previous exercise experience.
Any activities that have a low risk of falling, injury and joint and ligament damage should now be chosen.
What You Don’t Do is Just as Important as What You Do!
Are the workouts you doing right now backed by scientific evidence? Does your instructor have the proper training to be teaching you?
How do you know what is good and what is bad? This is the tough one. It comes down to you having trust in your instructor.
So what should you do?
Your homework. Ask the right questions.
Does your instructor have qualifications to be a prenatal exercise instructor? What experience do they have? What are their existing and previous clients saying?
Have peace of mind.
When you trust in your instructor you will have peace of mind that they are the experts. That they KNOW which exercises you should be doing each trimester.
And which ones must be avoided!
Avoid these Exercises when Pregnant
1. High impact exercise.
Generally, any high-impact exercise is not ideal. But when pregnant, the extra stress on your joints must be avoided.
Also, high impact often includes bouncing, bounding or jumping. These movements and activities come with other warnings for pregnant women. Losing your balance becomes an issue as you progress deep into your third trimester.
2. Planking or push-ups.
The stress form ‘planking‘ on your core (lower back) can lead to back problems. Also, you do not want to fall down on your belly if you push yourself to ‘failure’ and land on your belly.
Yes, planking is a favourite in boot camps, HIIT classes and many more of the well-known classes, but please, now is not the time.
3. Exercise that places pressure on your pelvic floor.
Including the right pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) into your workouts will benefit you in the long-term. Doing the ‘wrong’ exercises will only make your situation and recovery worse. Embarrassing leakage can be prevented. or, at the very least have the symptoms minimized.
4. Traditional crunches.
I am still not sure why you would want to do these old-style crunches when there are so many better options. You must modify your core workouts to accommodate your growing belly. From cable crunches to hanging leg raises; all place great strain on your body.
5. Exercises on your back.
So, hopefully you are learning that as your body changes and your baby grows, your workouts must also change. Lying on your back when pregnant should be avoided exponentially later on. To learn more about this you can read my post on lying on your back when pregnant >
This also includes avoiding lying on your right side for long periods of time.
6. Exercises holding your breath.
Holding your breath can cause unwanted strain. Not to mention restricting your oxygen supply is obviously not recommended when baby is on board.
7. Exercise in hot, humid weather.
Exercising in hot weather conditions can cause both you and baby distress. One of the main issues is getting dehydrated.
So whats a better option?
You guessed it, workout to one of my online videos in the privacy and comfort of your own home. Put the air conditioning on. Stay cool and exercise in a temperature controlled environment.
8. Risk of falling
Sports such as water skiing, snow skiing, riding motor bikes, horse riding involving falling. Need i say any more! Well, maybe I will also mention that these ‘high risk’ activities also come with many other risks. Let’s save these activities for when your body has completely healed well after childbirth.
9. Twisting movements when standing.
Twisting your back when standing can cause lower back problems which is a leading cause of many back injuries. Instead, you should turn your feet towards the object you are lifting. And be sure to avoid lifting anything too heavy.
10. Intense bursts of movement.
Ballistic movements, or sudden changes, can lead to you losing your balance. Also, these movements can place extra strain on your ligaments which is not ideal when pregnant.
See How PregActive Will Help You
What Activities to Avoid when Pregnant
1. Require extensive bounding, jumping, hopping or skipping.
2. Require bouncing (trampoline).
3. Involve sprinting, agility or a lot of running.
4. Ask you to do deep knee bends and squats.
5. Requiring full sit-ups.
6. Involving double leg raises.
7. You have to bounce when stretching.
8. Include any contact sport (football, baseball, softball, football, basketball and volleyball).
9. Need a sudden change in direction or jarring movements.
Exercises to Avoid when Pregnant
1. Competitive contact sports.
This is an obvious one but you may unintentionally be participating in recreational contact sports in your backyard or at the park with family and friends. The risk of injury increases significantly. These sports could include horse riding, football, soccer, basketball or volleyball.
2. Hot yoga
Prenatal Yoga is recommended. But Hot Yoga should be avoided due to the room temperature often reaching 100 degrees or higher. Pregnant women should avoid such hot conditions. Exposing a fetus to high temperatures may cause hyperthermia which can lead to birth defects and premature labor.
3. Boot camps
Many boot camps involve using ropes, pushing tires, lifting heavy weights or boxing which all could cause harm to both you and baby. Pregnancy is not the time to be starting a boot camp which is designed for a healthy population with little regards to the requirements of pregnancy.
Whether it is using a trampoline in your backyard or one at a trampoline center it is best to avoid this exercise. There is significant risk of falling because your center of gravity is off balance due to pregnancy. You could also sustain an injury to your ankles, knees or wrists if you brace yourself when you land.
5. Classes involving lifting of heavy weights.
There are some classes (power circuits) or other programmed classes that may involve heavy lifting weights. These classes can place greater stress on your joints and ligaments. Due to the pregnancy hormone relaxin you should avoid these ballistic, dynamic heavy lifts as your back wont like it. AND trust me, the last thing you want when pregnant is crippling back pain.
Heavy weight training lifts that involve maximal isometric muscle contractions can place too much stress on the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system.
6. High intensity training
Participating in a workout that involves raising and keeping your heart rate elevated for as long as possible is considered unsafe during pregnancy. These sessions can be harmful to both you and baby. Low to moderate intensity level is best. Let’s not try and set any new personal bests here.
7. Cross fit
CrossFit is often promoted as a competitive fitness sport. It incorporates elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, power-lifting, gymnastics, and other exercises.
Bounding, lifting heavy weights, high-intensity exercise and forms of gymnastics are obviously not recommended when pregnant. If you were doing CrossFIT before pregnancy, then now is the time for a mindset change. That is, your goals have changed.
8. Stair climbing
A popular exercise trend that has emerged in recent years is stair climbing events involving some of our city’s tallest buildings. There is a risk of falling, tripping, over-exerting yourself and exercising in a hot environment. You also increase heart rate to very high levels. You also overload your leg muscles.
9. Marathon running when pregnant
While some pregnant women still choose to compete in a marathon when pregnant, it is recommended to avoid running such long distances as this can lead to over-exertion. It can increase your core body temperature and there is the risk of dehydration. You are now more susceptible to sustaining a muscle strain.
There is just no point to running extremely long distances. Please put your ego aside.
10. Exercises that may cause abdominal trauma
I cringe when I see a pregnant women doing the old traditional crunches and even worse, the plank! There are so many better ways to strengthen your core when pregnant with yoga and Pilates being a better option here. Some abdominal strengthening exercises will be very uncomfortable. This is due to muscle weakness and the development of abdominal separation. A condition called diastasis recti.
11. High-altitude training
The human fetus develops normally under low-oxygen conditions. Exercise at high altitude may place further stress on oxygen delivery to the fetus.
12. Supine exercise position
Avoid lying on your back.
Because when you lay on your back the gravid uterus is known to compress the inferior vena cava. This can result in maternal hypotension and reduced blood flow to the fetus
13. Lying on the stomach
For obvious reasons, please don’t attempt any exercise or sport that may require you to lay on your stomach.
14. Standing Still for Long Periods of Time
Standing still for long periods of time is not recommended. For one, you could faint if too much blood pools in your lower extremities. Secondly, it places a lot of stress on your joints.
15. Scuba Diving
Scuba diving should be avoided as the pressure can result in birth defects and foetal decompression sickness.
So What Can You Do?
Now you know what exercises to avoid during pregnancy, I want to give you this workout video below that shows you what your workouts should be like. It is for intermediate level of fitness and ideal for your second trimester. Use common sense!
If it hurts, stop. If it doesn’t feel right, stop. When you are at risk of losing your balance, don’t do it. If you have any specific questions then your doctor will be your best resource.
Your Prenatal Exercise Routine
You’re busy. You feel you don’t have time to commit to a regular pregnancy exercise routine.
Maybe you’re still working. Or looking after other children. Life is busy. To make sure you continue working out when pregnant, your pregnancy exercise routine must be convenient, inspiring and one that keeps you coming back again and again. It must fit into your lifestyle.
How often Do I need to Workout?
I recommend you aim for 3 – 5 sessions a week. My online program is designed for you to choose a class based on your fitness level. This is important so that you get a workout, without pushing too hard.
You also need to include some Kegel exercises into our routines to strengthen your pelvic floor. A lot of women find it difficult to stay motivated when it comes to pelvic floor exercises.
Because unlike some exercises where you can see the difference in your arms, legs or overall fitness; it’s not quite the same with Kegels. But once you’ve experienced unwanted leakage, then that will be all the motivation you need to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Get Your Doctor’s Approval
Before you start a new exercise program, or continue your pre-pregnancy routine, you must chat to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for YOU. If your experiencing a normal pregnancy without complications, you should be able to continue with your regular training.
What Makes up a Routine that Works?
1. Safe pregnancy exercises
It goes without saying but any exercise, activity or sport you participate in when pregnant must be safe for both you and baby. The last thing you need right now is back pain due to performing unsafe exercises such as planks or lifting heavy weights.
But what’s safe and what is not? This is where you must have trust in your instructor that they are qualified to teach prenatal exercise classes.
Before you begin exercising, remember it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you typically get little or no activity, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is usually safe for everyone. It is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy.
2. Trimester-specific exercises
As your body changes, and your baby grows, you MUST modify your exercises and workouts. What you did in the first trimester of pregnancy may not be appropriate for late pregnancy. This is especially true when it comes to lying on your back.
3. Exercises that adapt to your growing belly
As your belly grows, your balance is affected. This requires you to use a chair or wall for support with some exercises. It also means that you must avoid high-impact exercises as the extra weight can cause injury.
4. Workouts that are progressive
The word ‘progressive’ takes on a different meaning when pregnant. If you were not pregnant, then progression may mean you add more weight to your lifts, increase training volume, or strive for new personal bests. But when pregnant, progression means modifying and adapting your workout as your body changes while still aiming to stay ‘pregnancy fit.’
5. Workouts that adhere to safety guidelines
This is non-negotiable as you must adhere to all safety guidelines and know when to stop exercising when pregnant. Safety is your priority and for some women exercise may not be recommended.
6. Pregnancy workouts you can do at home
Anywhere. Anytime! By doing some of your workouts at home you can save money on gym fees, save time driving to and from the gym and enjoy working out in the privacy of your home. All contribute to helping you stay motivated.
7. Variety of workouts to prevent boredom
We all get bored eventually when we do the same thing and exercising is no different. This is why you must add variety to your pregnancy exercise routine. It could be doing a yoga workout instead of your planned weekly session or going for a walk or a swim.
Benefits of Prenatal Exercise
Just in case you need some reasons why working when pregnant is recommended, here are some of the many benefits for pregnant women:
1. Improved mood
Yes, exercising help to boost your mood.
2. Improved sleep
Most people report that they sleep better when they exercise. Studies also back up this view. While it may not completely prevent some sleepless nights when pregnant, it will help.
3. Increased energy
Immediately after a workout I feel tired. But in the long term I have more energy.
4. Weight control
Maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight should be a major goal for you. Besides, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can look great, feel sexy or have the body confidence you deserve.
5. Stress relief
Exercise is known to reduce stress.
6. Decreased back pain
This has to be one of the worst symptoms of pregnancy as back pain can negatively impact on your daily life. Strengthening your core can help to reduce pain back and in some cases, prevent it.
7. Decreased chance of preeclampsia
Exercise can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. While there are many causes of preeclampsia, exercise is beneficial.
8. Reduced chance of gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born. It is diagnosed when higher than normal blood glucose levels first appear during pregnancy.
9. Decreased chance of postpartum depression
Some studies have shown that exercise can help in reducing some of the symptoms of PND.
10. Eases swelling
Swelling is normal in pregnancy. That is mild swelling. Regardless of the level of swelling, always speak to your doctor. Exercise can help to reduce some swelling in the feet and ankles.
11. Birth Preparation
Exercise help to prepare your body for the physical stress of labour and birth. It strengthens your core and entire body to assist with the various birthing positions.
12. Faster recovery after childbirth
You will experience a faster return to pre-pregnancy weight post childbirth. Initially, during those very important 12 weeks post pregnancy, exercise plays a role in your recovery and heeling.
Safe Prenatal Exercises
Yoga is a favorite of mine. I have been teaching yoga classes for over ten years now and I use many poses in my prenatal classes. There are some poses you must avoid when pregnant, but overall the benefits of yoga are favorable.
2. Prenatal Pilates
Like yoga, Pilates provides many benefits to you when pregnant. Just ensure your instructor is trained with pregnant women and know you must avoid lying on your back late in pregnancy.
Waling will become a big part of your exercise routines not only during pregnancy, but also post pregnancy as you walk bub around.
Swimming and PregAqua (water aerobics for pregnant women) is ideal because of the buoyancy of water.
5. Stationary cycling
If you like riding, then you can continue to do so when pregnant, but I recommended you move form a road bike to a stationary bike. This is due to balance issues and avoiding a potential fall.
6. Pregnancy exercise classes
Specific prenatal classes use only the safe and effective exercises for each trimester.
Prenatal Exercise Intensity Levels
I recommend that you start slowly if you’re new to exercise. My PregActive BASIC routine is where you need to begin. When you find these classes too easy, then move up to the next level.
If your pre-pregnancy fitness level was intermediate, keep doing what you were doing as long as you feel good.
Before pregnancy, if you were extremely fit, then you will need to scale back your workout intensity as your goals have changed.
High-intensity, high-impact long distance running should be avoided.
You shouldn’t try to increase your fitness level or beat any personal bests.
Now is not the time!
As you exercise, you should be able to continue a conversation. if not, yo’re likely pushing too hard.
It’s important to avoid overheating when pregnant. Getting too hot could harm your baby especially during the first trimester.
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Don’t wait until your begin exercising to drink. drink throughout the day.
Never exercise to the point of exhaustion.
Don’t lift heavy weights. The extra exertion and strain on your body can cause injury.
Avoid excessive bouncing, jumping, hopping, twisting, stretching, or frequent changes in direction.
When to Stop Exercising if Pregnant
Your pregnancy exercise routine must adhere to the required guidelines for a safe workout which includes knowing when your personal circumstances prevents you from exercising.
If at any time you feel the following you should stop immediately.
You cannot afford to ignore these signs while pregnant as you are not only are you looking out for your well-being, but also that of your baby. If you have any concerns always seek medical attention and ask questions regarding your specific requirements when it comes to exercising when pregnant.
Stop Prenatal Exercise when….
If you have experience any of the following body changes or symptoms, stop exercising and chat to your doctor:
1. Chest pain.
2. Vaginal bleeding.
3. Are short of breath.
4. Have a headache.
5. Have abdominal pain.
6. Experience pelvic pain.
7. Muscle weakness.
8. Experience difficulty walking or standing.
10. Painful heat in the lower legs.
11. Burning or difficulty urinating.
12. Painful breasts.
13. Experience dizziness.
14. Feel faint or light-headed.
15. Calf pain or swelling.
16. Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat.
17. Reduced movement by the baby.
18. Fluid leaking from the vagina.
19. Severe heartburn.
20. Back pain
Who Shouldn’t Exercise During Pregnancy?
You shouldn’t exercise at all during pregnancy if you’ve had a threatened miscarriage or gone into premature labour.
Vaginal bleeding. A low-lying placenta (placenta praevia). A weak cervix (cervical incompetence), heart or lung disease, very high blood pressure, may also preclude you from exercising.
This is where your doctor will advise you. please follow their directions.
Your exercise routine needs to adhere to the recommended guidelines for safety for every trimester and you should know when to stop exercising.
Importantly, you must have trust in your instructor and the workouts you are doing.
Why PregActive Works
- My program is medically recommended.
- PROVEN Results from real women.
- Get pregnancy fit in privacy at home.
- Safe & Effective workouts for You & Baby!
- Reduce or prevent back pain.
- Prevent unwanted leakage.
- Build core strength to carry baby.
- Maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
- Enjoy a speedier recovery post-birth.
1. Medically endorsed
Gain access to workouts that are medically endorsed and recommended.
2. Workout in Privacy
There’s no need to go to the gym! You get realistic workout videos designed for you to do at home.
3. Prepare for Childbirth
You will receive access to my special BirthPrep program and workouts that will help you through every stage of childbirth.
4. Prevent Pregnancy Injuries
My workouts have been designed to help prevent back pain, wrist pain and many more unwanted injuries.
Here’s What You Get
- New prenatal exercise program every week.
- Choice of class styles and fitness levels.
- Prenatal yoga video workouts.
- Workouts that do not require equipment!
- Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.
- Convenient 20 minute workouts.
- First trimester workouts.
- Second trimester workouts.
- Third trimester workouts.
- Workouts to prepare you for birth.
Pregnancy + Postpartum Workouts
I don’t know which class is for me?
Not to worry, you’re not alone! Our team of exercise experts have created a guided week by week program you can follow. We know what exercises you should and shouldn’t be doing so all you need to do is choose a class that suits your fitness level and enjoy peace of mind in knowing you are looking after both you and baby!
What about Prenatal Yoga Classes?
I have been teaching yoga to all women, including pregnant women, for nearly fifteen years. Here’s what I want you to know. The biggest piece of advice I want to give you is this. The yoga class you join MUST be taught by a qualified and experienced prenatal yoga instructor.
Because many of the exercises you do in a regular yoga class may no longer be suitable when you are pregnant. In fact, some positions could cause harm to your baby so I want you to know that all of my yoga workouts are designed specifically for pregnant women.
What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are exercises that you can do to make the muscles of your pelvic floor stronger. I will show in how-to videos how to master your pelvic floor exercises. Then I provide you with the right Kegel exercises you need throughout your pregnancy and also to help your with your postpartum recovery. Once you know how to do Kegel exercises you can do them anytime and anywhere.
One subscription is all you need!
If you are committed to having a more comfortable and healthier pregnancy then I am here to help you. For as little as $10 per week you can workout in the privacy and comfort of your own home. Are you ready to workout on your time and learn how to ease labor pain?