Exercise During Pregnancy: First Trimester

Feeling a little lost about fitness in your first trimester? Exercising during the first couple of months isn’t usually a problem, but you may want to proceed with caution for certain activities. Different factors come into play here, not just how far along you are in your pregnancy, but also how often you exercised before your pregnancy and what your fitness goals consist of.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can exercise during your first trimester of pregnancy and we’ll also give you some guidelines to point you in the right direction. We understand how important this unique period of your life is, so we’ll show you how you can make the best of it through stress-relieving exercises.

First trimester exercise: good or bad?

Generally speaking, exercise during your pregnancy’s first trimester is a good thing, but always speak to your doctor to make sure you’re in a healthy enough state for exercise. Your level of fitness before your pregnancy will determine how intense your workouts during your pregnancy can be.

  • If you are new to exercising, start out slow. There’s no need to get into extreme sports at this time – respect your current level of fitness and challenge yourself but don’t go overboard. By overboard, we mean no more than 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.
  • If you were physically active for at least six months before your pregnancy, keep up your regular workout routine if you can. Exercise during your first trimester can reduce stress and is great for regulating your energy levels and sleep cycle. Since you were already exercising before your pregnancy, a higher maximum heart rate during your workout is permitted – the ACSM (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) suggests 70% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

What does a good first trimester workout look like?

Exercising during your first trimester doesn’t differ greatly from how it looked before your pregnancy. Maintaining or even improving your fitness levels during this time will help you to feel less sluggish as your pregnancy progresses. We recommend making time for moderate exercise in the following categories:

  • Cardiorespiratory training: Activities that get your heart pumping and continuously use large muscle groups for 20 minutes or more. Examples include activities like walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, dancing or rowing. Try out some of 8fit’s cardio exercises for a great workout, without leaving the comfort of your home.
  • Strength training: Activities that build strength, increase muscle weight and improve endurance. Examples include lifting weights, bodyweight exercises and exercises with resistance bands. For these sort of workouts, it’s important not to overextend or stress your body out by using too much weight, so keep it nice and light.

How long should I exercise during the first trimester of pregnancy?

Depending on your level, we recommend around 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, in training sessions of at least 10 minutes at a time. How you plan out your workouts is up to you – you can decide to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and work out for a short period several days a week, or do more extended workout sessions three to five times a week.Train regularly, respect your physical condition and be sure to focus on the progression of the level of intensity over time. All this will promote excellent body adaptation and is safe for you and your fetus.

Why exercise during the first trimester?

Aside from stress relief, there are many reasons why you might wish to start training or increase the amount you exercise during your first trimester. For one thing, exercise can improve your overall cardiovascular function so that you feel lighter on your feet and less weighed down. It can decrease your risk of developing gestational hypertension (aka high blood pressure) and diabetes, two real risks for women who let their nutrition slip during pregnancy.

Exercise also ensures that weight gain stays at a minimum, while it can improve your mental state and possibly even help when it’s time to go into labor. It’s also good for your fetus – research shows that exercise can enhance the maturation of their nerves and brain. In other words, moderate exercise is beneficial for both mother and child.

pregnancy exercises

First trimester exercise: Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

  • Talk to your doctor to ensure that you’re in a healthy condition for exercising.
  • Rest often to keep you from overexerting yourself.
  • Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Stay active on a daily basis by practicing low-impact exercises like walking, swimming and yoga.
  • Build your strength with bodyweight exercises. Train your upper body so that you’ll feel strong enough to hold your baby for the time it needs.
  • Stay cool. Work out in cool and well-ventilated places. Always try to wear workout clothes that are breathable and comfortable.
  • Invest in a good sports bra. Choose one that doesn’t put pressure on the rib cage or constrict breathing while you exercise.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after exercise.
  • Do Kegel exercises. Practice Kegel exercises daily to help prevent urinary incontinence.

Don’ts

  • Don’t overheat. Stay hydrated and pay attention to your body’s temperature. Dehydration can lead to overheating, which is dangerous for the fetus. For this reason, we recommend working out in an air-conditioned room or one that’s well ventilated.
  • Don’t overexert yourself. Although getting out of breath and feeling a burn in your muscles during training is usually a good thing, during pregnancy, it’s something to be careful about. Because oxygen demand is much higher during pregnancy, it’s important to supply the fetus with all the oxygen it needs, and that means not overexerting yourself to the point you can’t breath. Try giving yourself the “talk test” – talk and see if you would be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If you can’t, you’re probably overexerting yourself and need to slow down.
  • Don’t keep exercising if you feel dizzy or lightheaded – know your limits and respect them, for both you and the baby.
  • Don’t participate in high-risk activities. That means no scuba diving, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding or mountain climbing. Avoid activities that increase the risk of accidents and create excessive joint stress.
  • Don’t play contact sports of any kind including football, hockey, basketball and rugby. These sports can carry a serious risk of abdominal trauma, which is linked to fetal distress and sometimes miscarriage.

Try this first trimester workout at home

Here’s a full workout you can do right from the comfort of your own bedroom using just your bodyweight or by adding dumbbells. Make sure to rest for at least thirty seconds between each set!

1. Squats

  • Weighted: 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Bodyweight: 45 seconds x 2 sets

Romanian deadlifts (legs focus on hamstring)

  • Weighted: 10 reps per leg  x 3 sets
  • Bodyweight: 30 seconds per leg x 2 sets

Curtsy lunges

  • Weighted: 10 reps per leg x  3 sets
  • Bodyweight: 30 seconds per leg x 2 sets

Push-ups

  • 12 reps x 3 sets

Bent over row, with light weights

  • 12 reps x 3 sets

Plank

  • 45 seconds x 2 sets
  • 30 seconds x 3 sets
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