Advertisement

What Exercises Are Safe in the First Trimester?

Staying fit during early pregnancy

Staying healthy and fit when you’re pregnant is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Even if you have morning sickness or other discomforts of early pregnancy, getting up and moving around will often help you feel better. You should rest when you need to rest, however.

Exercise will also help you regulate weight gain, prepare you for bearing more weight, and get you in shape for childbirth. It’s good for mood and sleep, too.

You probably aren’t noticing many major bodily changes yet, other than feeling like you need a little more rest. The most important rules for first trimester exercise are to pay attention to those new limits on your energy and to avoid falls. Make sure your doctor knows what exercise you’re undertaking, and talk to them about anything new you start.

Now is a good time to add a low-impact exercise that you’ll be able to do as your pregnancy progresses. For example, if you run for exercise three times a week now, substitute one session of water exercise for one weekly run during your first trimester. That way, you’ve got a head start on water workouts if and when you give up running.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Where to start

Where to start

If you didn’t exercise regularly before you got pregnant, now is the time to get in a habit that could serve you for a lifetime. Begin with a low level of exertion and work up to 30 minutes per day, 3 to 5 times per week. If possible, work with a trainer who has expertise in working out during pregnancy.

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. If going to the gym isn’t for you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Go dancing with friends or splash around in the pool. Any exercise is better than none.

Pilates

Pilates

Pilates can help you address two of the challenges you’ll experience during pregnancy: balance and lower back pain.

Pilates builds core muscles through a series of equipment and floor exercises. Your first sessions will focus on building strength. Later sessions challenge that strength and your balance.

Avoid poses where you lie on your back as well as any twisting of your midsection. Don’t overexert yourself during Pilates or other belly-focused exercise, or you could cause diastasis recti, a condition in which the parallel panels of your abdominal muscles temporarily separate.

How much?

A prenatal Pilates workout once per week will help you build strength and balance.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Yoga

Yoga

Welcome to one of the best exercises you can do for yourself during pregnancy and for the rest of your life. Yoga builds strength and balance, keeps muscles limber, reduces blood pressure, and teaches you breathing rhythms that will help during delivery. Long after childbirth, as you enter menopause, yoga can help prevent osteoporosis by building bone mineral density, according to .

If you already practice yoga and your prepregnancy routine is comfortable in your new condition, keep it up.

You should avoid:

  • backbends
  • poses that twist the abdomen
  • any position where your feet are over your head, such as headstands
  • lying on your back
  • Bikram or “hot” yoga

How much?

Any amount of yoga is healthy, as long as you’re not overexerting by pulling muscles or getting overheated. A half hour of yoga per day is great, as is one 30-minute session per week.

Walking

Walking

Walking is what our bodies are made for and it makes for great pregnancy exercise. An easy stroll gets you moving, and you can build upper body strength by swinging your arms. Get your heart pumping by picking up the pace.

How much?

If you aren’t already an exercise walker, start with 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 times a week. Work up to 30 minutes a day. To help prevent falling, stay off any broken sidewalks or rocky pathways.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Swimming

Swimming and water aerobics

The pool is your friend during pregnancy. The water is soothing, the exercise is low-impact, and you won’t fall over. Water exercise expert Sara Haley has a helpful series of prenatal exercises that focus on building core strength.

If you’re already doing water exercise, there’s no need to change your routine. As in all exercise, avoid twisting your middle too much, and pay attention to your energy limits. If you get tired, it’s not time to push yourself — it’s time to get out of the pool. If you’re starting water exercise during pregnancy, ask a swim coach or trainer at your pool about safe routines.

How much?

Try 3 to 5 times per week, 30 minutes at a time.

Advertisement

Running

Running

If you’ve never been a runner, consider other pregnancy exercise. While it’s very unlikely that running in your first trimester will cause a pregnancy problem, you will eventually need to give it up in the next several months, and there are many other ways to get a healthy workout.

If you were a runner before pregnancy, you can probably continue to follow your safe running routine in your first trimester. The same cautions apply about falls and energy: Run on flat tracks or a treadmill with safety bars to prevent falls, and stop when you’re tired, not after. Now is not the time to push yourself.

How much?

If your prepregnancy routine still feels good, keep it up, aiming for 30 minutes of running at least 3 days per week.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Weight training

Weight training

Weight training will help build strength throughout your body to prepare you for carrying more pregnancy weight and to help you deliver. You can lift free weights and work out on weight machines at a gym. Avoid any maneuvers that hold weights over your belly and that have you lying on your back. You should also take care not to strain your breathing. Work with a trainer on a prenatal routine.

How much?

A study in the reported that low to moderate intensity strength training twice per week was safe and helpful for pregnancy.

Biking

Stationary bike and spin class

The problem during pregnancy is not getting on a bike — it’s falling off. Or, in the case of riding a bike on the streets, having an accident. That’s why stationary bikes and spin class are good options during your first trimester. Both are low-impact and get your heart moving without the dangers of the road.

Be careful not to fall prey to the competitive atmosphere of some spin classes. Go at a pace that feels right for you.

Late in your first trimester, you may notice your center of gravity changing. Whether you’re on a stationary bike or spinning, check to see if the height of your handlebars is properly supporting your back, and adjust if needed.

How much?

Try 2 or 3 sessions on a bike or spin classes per week in sessions of 30 minutes to an hour.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Takeaway

Exercising safely in the first trimester

In your first trimester, you probably don’t look pregnant yet, so make sure your exercise coaches and workout buddies know that you’re expecting.

It can help to do a warm up. Five minutes of stretching before your workout will help your muscles prepare for exertion. You should also do a cool down. For the last 5 minutes of a 30-minute workout, switch to slower exercise and stretch any tight muscles.

You should take a break from exercising if you:

Hydrate regularly during pregnancy, whether you’re exercising or not. Eat quality snacks after exercising. There isn’t any recommendation for the ideal heart rate during first trimester exercise, but a good rule of thumb is that you should work at a pace where you’d able to carry on a normal conversation. 

Article resources
  • Exercise and pregnancy. (2017).
  • Harms RW. (2017). Pregnancy week by week: I’ve exercised regularly for years. Now that I’m pregnant, do I need to limit my heart rate while I exercise?
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Pregnancy week by week: Prenatal yoga: What you need to know.
  • Muktabhant B, et al. (2015). Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy.
  • Nascimento SL, et al (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy [Abstract]. DOI:
  • O'Connor PJ, et al. (2011). Safety and efficacy of supervised moderate intensity resistance training adopted during pregnancy.
  • Okonta NR. (2012). Does yoga therapy reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension? [Abstract]. DOI:
  • Pregnancy precautions: FAQs. (n.d.).
  • Woodyard C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. DOI:
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement