Your Guide to Exercising During Pregnancy

Published by
Madeline Custer
January 26, 2024
February 10, 2024

Exercise During Pregnancy

Welcoming a little one into the world is an exciting journey, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle during pregnancy can be incredibly beneficial for both mom and baby. Contrary to some outdated recommendations that pregnancy is ONLY a time for rest, research now shows that staying active during pregnancy has many benefits including: smoother pregnancy with fewer aches and pains, easier labor and quicker postpartum recovery.

Is it safe to workout during pregnancy?

Research continues to show that the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are numerous! For healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages the introduction or continuation of aerobic and strength-training exercises for at least 150 minutes a week to support your health and recovery both during pregnancy and postpartum. As always, it is important to ensure that you have proper clearance from your health care provider PRIOR to starting any workout programming during pregnancy. They can provide any specific guidance or recommendations for YOUR pregnancy.

Will exercise affect my baby?

Moderate exercise is beneficial for both you and your baby. It can enhance overall health, mood, and may contribute to an easier labor.

What are the benefits of exercise while pregnant?

  1. Boosted Mood and Reduced Stress: Exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, which can help combat mood swings and reduce stress.
  2. Improved Sleep: Regular physical activity can contribute to better sleep, a precious commodity for expecting mothers.
  3. Enhanced Muscle Strength and Endurance: Strengthening key muscle groups, especially the core and pelvic floor muscles, supports the body's changing weight distribution.
  4. Reduced Risk of Pregnancy Complications: Regular exercise is associated with reduced risks for conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and cesarean birth.
  5. Preparation for Labor and Postpartum Recovery: Cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and specific movements can improve endurance, strength, and overall health, potentially making labor more manageable and aiding postpartum recovery.
  6. Reduced Aches and Pains: Strengthening exercises and stretches can alleviate common pregnancy discomforts like back pain and swelling.

Pregnancy modifications for safe workouts

  1. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. If something doesn’t feel right, modify or stop the activity.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Pregnant women need more water to support fetal circulation, amniotic fluid, and higher blood volumes. Ensure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
  3. Avoid Overheating: Changing hormones, increased blood flow, and a growing baby can all contribute to a naturally raised core temperature in pregnant women. It is important to monitor your temperature during added physical activity such as exercise to avoid complications. It is safest to choose well-ventilated spaces, wear loose fitting clothing, and skip the sauna, jacuzzi, or steam room. 
  4. Modify Intensity: Adjust the intensity of your workouts as needed. Some days you will feel better than others and that is OK! The goal is to maintain healthy activity, not to reach new PRs (you’re already making a human!).
  5. Deep Core and Pelvic Floor Exercises: The core unit (including your pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, back muscles, and diaphragm) is undergoing the most dramatic and rapid change throughout pregnancy and needs special attention and specific programming to accommodate. Incorporating proper core activation, as well as pelvic floor strengthening and lengthening exercises can support proper control, function, and help prepare for labor and postpartum recovery.
  6. Decreased Time Spent on Your Back: After the first trimester you will want to monitor the time spent in the supine position to avoid restricting blood flow to the uterus.

Resources:

When in pregnancy should I switch my workout program? 

This can vary from person to person, but when you find yourself needing to make modifications or wondering how to adjust a standard workout, it’s time to switch. Knowing that a workout program is designed to accommodate the changes YOU are experiencing gives pregnant moms confidence and helps them stay consistent throughout pregnancy. By the second trimester, most people are noticing anatomical changes to the core and hips that make it an important time to modify some exercises and move to pregnancy safe workouts. Some exercises can cause more damage to the core unit than anything else during pregnancy, so having core work that HELPS you engage and maintain a strong deep core and pelvic floor is key during pregnancy. 

What is Mom Moves?

Mom Moves is the prenatal-specific strength training program available on the Moves App! This pregnancy-specific program was developed with experts in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and Women's Health to tailor training to your changing needs throughout pregnancy. With 3 trimester-specific phases, Mom and baby enjoy safe and effective workouts that empower you to stay active, strong, and confident while providing education and support for your individual journey.

What's different about the Mom Moves Program?

  1. Built for Pregnancy: Traditional strength training, tailored specifically for you with built in modifications, videos, education, and cues. We address key areas of importance and adjust stances or positions to protect your core, balance, and potential discomfort, so that you can stay strong and confident at every stage. 
  2. Built with Experts: We brought in several licensed experts in Physical Therapy, women’s health, pregnancy, and postpartum to give the program the strategy, education, and support you need to feel confident training safely during pregnancy. 
  3. Gym & At-Home Friendly: We know time is precious, so we have built in modifications for all of our programs that make it easy to train when and where you need. All you’ll need is dumbbells, bands, and a safe elevated surface. 
  4. Trusted & Tested by Real Moms: Our prenatal program was built by moms, for moms. No person or pregnancy is the same, so we combined as much expertise, feedback, and experience as we could to deliver programming to support all ranges of level and experience.

Trimester-Specific Pregnancy Workouts

First Trimester

In the first trimester, you will find programming with slightly less volume and overall intensity to accommodate early pregnancy symptoms. We implement new exercises, such as in our Core & Mobility days, which reduce the risk of common pregnancy-associated injuries and deficits. You will see some more advanced exercises, such as light plyometrics and core work, which evolve as the trimesters progress.

Second Trimester

In the second trimester, programming takes into account your growing baby by using sumo movements for many squat and deadlift exercises while also limiting plyometrics significantly. As your body continues to change, it is important to be aware of how these changes may impact your workout, as well as the signs and symptoms that may warrant medical attention.

Third Trimester

You will continue to see abundant sumo and plie variations for squat and deadlift exercises to help keep room for baby. We have limited the number and duration of exercises where you are lying flat on your back to avoid cardiovascular issues. Around the 35-week mark, the mobility focus shifts to labor prep/hip opening and integrated Pelvic Floor PT reminders and encouragements.

You can always scale up the programming in any trimester by adding weight, rounds, or optional workout days.

What is the training schedule?

  1. Lower Body 
  2. Upper Body
  3. Conditioning & Mobility 
  4. Core & Mobility 
  5. Full Body

Why are Mom Moves Prenatal Core Centric days so helpful? 

The core unit is undergoing the most dramatic and rapid change throughout pregnancy and needs special attention and specific programming to accommodate. Mom Moves Prenatal sessions allow you to safely and effectively continue to train the core in positions that do not compromise or exacerbate natural weaknesses that are occurring to the linea alba as baby grows. Trimester by trimester, you are guided on diaphragmatic breath work, pelvic floor contraction and relaxation in isolation and paired with movement so you are functionally benefitting from these workouts both in pregnancy and postpartum. We have layered in intentional mobility and pelvic floor relaxation to keep you healthy and prep your body for labor.

FAQS:

Can I work out while pregnant if I didn't before?

Yes, it is generally safe to start exercising during pregnancy even if you didn't before, so long as you do not have any contraindications. Listen to your body, prioritize comfort, and avoid strenuous exercises. Regular, moderate exercise can offer numerous benefits during pregnancy. 

Is it safe to exercise your ab muscles during pregnancy?

Unless your doctor has restricted exercise, abdominal exercises are fine to do while pregnant; however, it is best to modify to a pregnancy-specific routine with a focus on exercises that strengthen the transversus abdominis and pelvic floor to avoid unneeded stress on the linea alba. 

Can I continue high-intensity workouts while pregnant?

Always consult your healthcare provider for personalized guidance. If you are healthy and you have a normal pregnancy, most women should be able to continue their normal exercise routine, for as long as they are comfortable. High impact activities may need modification as your pregnancy progresses. 

How Does Exercise Affect Weight Gain?

Regular exercise can help manage weight gain during pregnancy. However, it's essential to gain a healthy amount of weight for the well-being of both mother and baby.

What are some of the contraindications to working out during pregnancy?

Absolute contraindications to training during pregnancy include gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, ruptured membranes, incompetent cervix, bleeding in the second or third trimester, multiple gestation at risk for premature labor, placenta previa after 26 weeks, and premature labor. As always, check with your health provider to confirm that you are cleared for exercise. 

Testimonials

I’ve learned that my 'mom body' can do hard things. This program has helped me appreciate my body for the way that it is and the fact that I brought my babies here. Every day I loved working out with my sweet 3 year old daughter by my side. At the end of the day I always ask her what her favorite part of the day was and most of the time she would say “working out with mommy”. I love the fact that she got to see what it’s like taking care of your body and that you can make it fun and enjoyable.
- Caesie E
I'm LOVING Mom Moves!! Lower body today and I felt like I could really focus on my workout for the first time, because I knew it has the best intentions in mind for prenatal exercise 🙌 still in my first trimester, but so this launched at the perfect time for me and I'm so excited to continue working out throughout my entire pregnancy using this program. THANK YOU!! 💕
Been using your app this week for mom moves and my SPD pain has improved so much 😭 😭. I'm so thankful. Plus I look forward to the workouts because they are programmed out for me. Just thank you!
I started trimester 2 mom moves this week and am loving it. I feel like I'm getting effective exercise while taking into account my changing body and stamina. The best part is I'm comforted by how safe I feel these workouts are during this time.
Oh. My. Goodness. I just finished my first day of Mom Moves - 2nd Trimester. This is my second pregnancy doing your workouts. I'm 20 weeks tomorrow and while I've loved the workouts all along this workout truly felt perfect for me and was a perfect length of time. Thank you so so much for this program and at no extra cost. You're amazing!
I just started being a paid member of the moves community so I could use mom moves. WOW! I love it! I feel seen and heard and like I can actually complete the workout. I feel safe knowing it's targeted for moms to be like me! I'm 20 weeks & 2 days.


Learn More about Mom Moves: Prenatal Training Program

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