Second-Trimester Exercise: The Dos and Don’ts
It’s never too late to start training regularly – even when you’re pregnant and in your second trimester. Believe it or not, habits adopted during pregnancy can potentially affect your health for the rest of your life! So, let’s try to stop looking at pregnancy as a reason to limit or stop being active, but instead a time to kick things up a notch! Indeed, second-trimester exercises can actually boost your fitness level as you train — for two!
During the second trimester of your pregnancy, you may begin to notice some changes in your body. Strangely enough, this is also when it gets easier to train again. Morning sickness usually goes down at this time, and hormones feel less intense, your energy levels go back up, and your center of gravity is still relatively stable.
In fact, many health benefits come with second-trimester exercise. For instance, regularly working out can prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that can occur during pregnancy) as well as help you manage your weight better after birth. Exercising in the second trimester can also have physiological advantages as your body gets used to supply more oxygen and nutrients to you and your baby.
Second-trimester exercise: An overview
Although exercising during the second trimester may feel more natural than in the first or third, it’s still important to be aware of your body’s transformation so that you can train safely and with peace of mind. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these changes so you can adapt your physical activity at this exciting time.
Mid-pregnancy, your body pumps around 30 to 50 percent more blood than before you were pregnant. Additionally, your heart rate may increase up to 20 percent in the second and third trimesters, equaling a total increase of 10 to 20 beats per minute. For some women, this can lead to being out of breath quickly, even if it’s low-intensity physical activity. Don’t let that worry you – your heart and lungs will work together to carry oxygen where it’s needed most.
When pregnant you produce more red blood cells, and your heart works nearly twice as hard to provide nutrients and oxygen to both you and your child. Interestingly enough, red cell mass rises to be able to keep up with carrying the oxygen. In other words, when your workout, you’ll need even more oxygen than usual, and this can improve your cardiovascular capacity. More red blood cells equal more oxygen and, in turn, better performance.
Low blood pressure
The increase in blood volume and heart rate may lead to low blood pressure as blood vessels relax and expand to let the blood circulate. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is normal during the first and second trimester and usually doesn’t impact your or your baby’s health significantly. However, hypotension can have some uncomfortable side effects:
Swelling: Also known as edema, is a normal condition that tends to appear in the second trimester due to extra blood and fluid in the body. While exercise increases blood flow to the heart, lungs, and muscles of both you and the fetus, it can also reduce the circulation in your hands and feet, resulting in edema. It tends to manifest in the legs, ankles, and feet at the end of a long day. We recommend plenty of movement, staying and relaxing with your feet in an elevated position.
Dizziness: As the uterus grows more substantial during the second trimester, it may start putting pressure on certain blood vessels which can lead to mild dizziness in some women. Standing up too quickly or a sudden change in posture when exercising can exacerbate dizziness. We recommend moving slowly when from exercise to exercise, as well as when transitioning from sitting to standing.
Sweating: When working out in your second trimester, an increase in blood flow, higher metabolism, and warmer body temperature may cause your body to more than usual. If you find working out to be too uncomfortable in this period, why not try swimming? Immersing yourself in water is a great way to lower your body’s temperature and reduce sweating during second-trimester exercise.
Other factors can contribute to even lower blood pressure like prolonged bed rest, dehydration and malnutrition. Therefore, it’s paramount to stay active most days of the week, drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat wholesome meals.
Changes in posture
Some women develop a condition known as lumbar lordosis in their second trimester. This condition causes the lower back to curve inward which contributes to the high prevalence of low back pain (up to 50 percent!) in pregnant women.
At the beginning of the second trimester, postural and anatomical changes may influence the way you exercise. For example, as the uterus grows and gets heavier, the supine position (on your back) can limit the amount of blood flowing to the heart. Therefore, it’s best to avoid positions where you’re supine as much as possible when resting or exercising – this is why doctors often suggest you sleep on your side.
Such pregnancy-related postural changes may also affect your center of gravity, causing you to lose your balance and fall more often. So, it’s a good idea to steer clear of exercises that could increase the risk of falling.
Ligament laxity (looseness)
Another significant change during pregnancy is the increased laxity of the body’s ligaments. Such looseness relaxes the pelvic joints to support labor. However, this increased laxity (looseness) can also result in more strains and sprains as your bones can become unstable. However, when second-trimester exercises are done regularly with proper form can help stabilize the joints by strengthening the muscles around them. Just keep a close eye on how you move your body and avoid exercises that emphasize balance, coordination, and agility.
Maternal insulin resistance, more commonly known as gestational diabetes, usually begins in the second trimester as a result of a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the muscles and fat tissues. In most cases, your health practitioner will carefully monitor this throughout your pregnancy.
Science shows that moderate-intensity exercises such as walking, swimming, climbing stairs, dancing for fun, etc. are advised for those with glucose sensitivity. Even more interesting, working out regularly before and during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or are prone to blood sugar ups and downs (i.e., diabetes runs in your family or are pre-diabetic) be mindful to fuel your workouts with a balance of protein and carbohydrates.
The dos and don’ts of second-trimester exercise
Note that the second trimester is the period where your body bridges the first and last trimester, both supporting the development of your baby as well as preparing your body for birth. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take heed of our first-trimester recommendations as they also apply to the second trimester.
Exercise in a well-ventilated space: As you may end up sweating more during pregnancy, it’s especially important to work out in an air-conditioned environment with good airflow.
Drink lots of water: Hydration is always important, but especially when it comes to hydrating for two!
Have fun: Whether you choose to dance, swim or practice yoga, enjoy yourself and don’t worry if you feel a little more tired than you used to – it’s normal.
Work out or sleep on your back: As mentioned earlier, try to avoid lying on your back while resting or exercising. So how o you get an ab workout in then? Keep your eyes peeled for our article on
Core Exercises for Pregnancy coming soon.
Go it alone: Always consult a doctor ahead of exercising, especially if you might be at risk of preterm labor. Some doctors may advise you to reduce your activity level in the second and third trimesters.
Ignore the signs: If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, then stop exercising and consult your OBGYN immediately.
Dyspnoea before exertion (difficulty to breath before exercising)
Unusual chest pain
Calf pain or intense legs swelling (need to rule out thrombophlebitis)
Decreased fetal movement
Amniotic fluid leakage
Enjoy every moment
Pregnancy is a beautiful and sometimes challenging life event. If exercise starts to feel less-than-pleasant, stop and talk to your doctor. If it’s right for you, continue to use 8fit as your guide during pregnancy, modifying high-impact movements and core exercises as your belly grows. The app can also be a helpful tool in your postpartum months to get back into the swing of fitness. Sign up today.