Fit Mom: Should You Work Out While Pregnant?

(Me! 6 mos preg & about to teach a spin class!)

Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Such an exciting stage, but also a whirlwind because everything is new and different. Yes, your workout should be different, but maybe not as drastically as anticipated. Your exercise level during pregnancy is based on the conversations you have with your doctor and on your current fitness level.

I’m pregnant, can I workout?

Yes! First, again, it’s up to what your doctor says and if there are any special circumstances. But, if you are cleared, it’s actually good for the baby and you to keep your fitness up during those 9 months!

When doing cardio exercises, you should be able to do the “talk-test” (ie: can you talk while working out or have you lost your breath?). You will get out of breath sooner when pregnant, so if you follow this method for cardio and strength training it will help keep you in a really safe place. You may have already noticed becoming short of breath with just a couple stairs as early as 6 weeks pregnant.

Great workouts while pregnant:

Spinning. Lower impact on your joints as you gain a little weight and as the hormone relaxin secretes in your body. If you experience too much pelvic pressure based on how you’re carrying sitting on a spin bike might be rather uncomfortable. But, for some women it can take them all the way to 40 weeks.

Weight training/lifting. Such a great way to increase your own bone density and stability. Your baby takes your calcium supply to build their bones. Taking your prenatal vitamins and weight training can help you fight back.

Pilates. Early on regular classes are great but into the second trimester you’ll want to find some prenatal classes here. Also great for bone density, but additionally excellent for kegel and pelvic floor control.

Barre. A great workout that tones your body and with simple modification you can do almost everything in class.

Yoga. Again, after the first trimester start looking for the prenatal options. This will keep you from doing anything contraindicated and also help with actual birth (mentally and physically). I really enjoyed my prenatal classes, but be prepared they are not physically challenging classes.

Running. If you were doing it before, then great. This is not something to start when pregnant. Heavy running during pregnancy is not bad for you, but also not great in helping with pelvic floor control after pregnancy.

Swimming. If you have pool access, go swim some laps or just wade around with a mocktail because being in the pool feels so good. This is one of the best options for injury prevention.

Can anything bad happen if I workout while pregnant?

Every time we push past our limit with aggressive weight training, like body building or extreme cardio, we are taking our body supply to our extremities instead of allowing the regular amount to flow to the placenta. Starting intense weight training while your pregnant is not ideal. Starting to increase your mile time is not ideal. Be smart.

Most things that could negatively happen, however, will happen to you and not your baby.

Hernia: Because your abdominal wall is weakened and stretched you have a greater risk of an abdominal hernia at this time.

Sprained ankle: Everything is a little loose and wobbly, avoid lateral exercises or sports based exercises.

Disc or back issue: you have limited core strength for obvious reasons and now your weight is front loaded so you have to bend your knees more and be careful.

Diastatis recti: the splitting of the abdominal wall. This can happen to anyone and not always based on what you are doing. But, overuse with exercises like planks and abs only make it worse.

Overall, pregnancy is not the time to try new, harder things, but keeping your current schedule or increase slightly if you’re rather sedentary. It will be great for helping your weight gain stay on track, help with fatigue and nausea, and can definitely help your mood. Additionally, exercise can help with blood sugar levels and your actual birth. So get out there and get your sweat on!


Julia Swayne is a personal trainer (NASM), spin instructor (Mad Dogg) , and Pilates apparatus and prenatal trainer (Poise Pilates) working in Hoboken and NYC. She has been working in fitness for almost a decade now and currently is the Director of Instructors with Hoboken’s Work it Out. Last October, she became a mom to daughter Elizabeth.

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