Exercise can play an important role in keeping both you and your baby healthy by reducing your risk of conditions such as gestational diabetes, reducing muscle tension and pain and maintaining a healthy heart. As your pregnancy progresses, however, exercise can become more challenging, and some exercises are not safe in the third trimester.
Yoga and Pilates
During pregnancy, your muscles tend to become slightly more flexible, but this can actually increase your risk of pulling a muscle. Exercises such as yoga and Pilates can help keep your muscles flexible and healthy by relieving muscle tension and building strength. Because of the increased risk of pulling a muscle during pregnancy, it's important to avoid forcing poses. Similarly, if a particular routine or movement is uncomfortable, either avoid it altogether or ask your instructor if there's a way to adapt it to make it less painful.
Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart healthy, and you shouldn't abandon it in pregnancy. As you approach delivery, however, intense cardio can cut off the oxygen supply to your baby, particularly if you're not very physically fit. Try low-impact, low-intensity cardio routines such as walking, water aerobics, riding a stationary bike or swimming laps. Running is safe if you were previously a runner, but if you want to try running for the first time, talk to your doctor. Stair stepper machines are also safe, as long as they have side rails to prevent a fall.
Healthy muscles can make carrying your baby easier and can also prevent chronic diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Weightlifting is perfectly safe, so long as you're not lifting extraordinarily heavy weights that you could drop. Instead, start slow, steadily building strength. Remember that the extra weight of pregnancy forces your body to work harder, so you might want to use lighter weights than you used prior to pregnancy. Consider weight machines, such as the leg press; free-weight exercises, such as biceps curls; and body-weight exercises, such as lunges, pushups and situps.
Workouts to Avoid
Avoid anything that poses a risk of a blow to your stomach or back -- including contact team sports and risky exercises such as skiing, boxing, football or snowboarding. Team sports can also be risky because of the increased risk of falling or being inadvertently hit by someone else, so save basketball, soccer and baseball for after the delivery. Depending upon your balance, you may also want to avoid activities that require a strong sense of balance, such as cycling outdoors, because of the risk of a fall; stationary cycling is still safe. If you have conditions such as premature labor, eclampsia, ruptured membranes or placenta previa, talk to your doctor before doing any workout routine.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Benefits of Physical Activity
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women
- American Pregnancy Association: Exercise and Pregnancy