What You Need to Know About 1st Trimester Exercise

Has this question crossed your mind? Can I continue with my exercise routine now that I'm pregnant? To answer the question simply – it’s a resounding yes. In your first trimester, there aren't actually many things you have to do to stay pregnancy-safe. Think about it this way: many women don't find out they're pregnant until almost halfway through their first trimester, and many of them exercise as usual during that time. The biggest thing in your first trimester is all those symptoms that come smacking out of nowhere and learning how to balance the impossible fatigue and irritating nauseous with a good workout. 


Here's why it's so important that you start your prenatal exercise routine off on the right foot in the first trimester: staying fit during pregnancy goes way beyond the aesthetics and how your body looks. It’s far more about how it makes your body feel and the incredible long-term benefits to your health, your baby and your mind. For example, exercising just 30 minutes a day (3-5 times a week) can help reduce anxiety and common pregnancy symptoms, decrease your likelihood of developing prenatal complications, make it easier to get back in shape after birth, and it can even make labor a bit easier (we wish we could say a lot easier…)


To get you started, we've got our top tips for exercising in the first trimester, so you can ease into it effectively and start these 9 months off on the healthiest foot. This isn't to say you won’t have to make some modifications along the way, but we you can always stay in touch with trimester-specific fitness recommendations through your Baby2Body app.

Top 5 Tips for First Trimester Exercise

1.  Work to your current fitness level. If you were a gym bunny (or worked out frequently) before becoming pregnant, it’s OK to maintain a similar exercise routine, so long as you listen to your body and don’t work yourself to exhaustion. If you only exercised from time to time, or not at all, now isn’t the time to take your fitness training to crazy heights. Ease yourself in with a 10-minute walk every day for 4-5 days a week, whether that’s on the treadmill, a stroll in the park or on your way to work. The next week, add 5 minutes to your walk or pick up the pace. Keep building week on week to get your stamina up. From there you can start to incorporate resistance exercises and longer cardio workouts to build good muscle tone and keep your heart healthy. Prenatal exercise is all about maintaining regular exercise, strength, and stamina - so consistency is the biggest thing.


2. Never miss a warm-up. You might have skipped a few in the past, we won’t lie we have too, but during pregnancy, warm-ups are even more important. Warm-ups are primarily done to avoid injury and muscle cramping - and while you're dealing with all those other pregnancy symptoms, this is the last thing you want. Warming up effectively will also allow your heart rate to rise gradually, rather than giving it a shock by jumping right into a workout routine. Getting into higher-intensity exercise too quickly can make your blood pressure rise, making you lightheaded and dizzy, which you're more prone to in pregnancy anyway, so that gradual buildup is key. You can keep it simple with a 5-10 minute walk where you gradually increase the speed, arm circles, and some dynamic stretches to loosen up your joints and get your heart prepped for your workout.


3. H2O is a hero. You’ve probably heard enough about the importance of water to last you a lifetime – but it’s not just for good for drinking during exercise. (In case you need it, here's a quick guide to drinking water while working out -- try to down a full glass 30 minutes before exercise, drink another glass throughout your exercise, and then finish off a third glass in the first 30 minutes after exercise -- we know, we know, that's a lot of bathroom trips, but it's important!). But water isn't just a hero to drink, it's also going to become your best friend when you hit that third trimester and are looking for some relief.  Not only is swimming is a great cardio exercise, it's low-impact, gentle on your joints, and also serves as a natural lymphatic massage, helping you to remove toxins efficiently and keep swelling to a minimum. Finding a gym or local pool you can attend early in your pregnancy will make you more comfortable attending as you progress into later stages. Remember - water provides an almost weightless environment and will feel seriously good when you're nearing your final month of pregnancy. 


4. Catch your breath. As we said, unless advised otherwise by your doc it’s OK to continue with your current exercise classes in your first trimester. As long as you’re listening to your body (quick hint: that’s a recurring theme of prenatal exercise) and taking it at a pace that feels manageable, you can feel free to keep on spinning, going to Barre, HIIT, or whatever you love to do. That said, it’s also OK to shift your focus if you feel more comfortable in a different exercise environment. Now is the optimal time to try a class that feels like a safe, positive space and will benefit you throughout the entire pregnancy. Pilates and yoga are great exercise classes that can carry you through a pregnancy. We know they’ve been a little over-hyped but there’s definitely a good reason why. These classes are designed to build your strength and balance whilst helping you to relax and focus on your breathing – and working on both at the same time is like the Holy Grail of pregnancy exercise. Whatever class you choose to attend, make sure to tell your instructor you’re expecting, or look to sign up for prenatal classes.


5. Muscles are sexy! Good muscle tone will serve you well as you progress through pregnancy, during labor, and especially as a new mom recovering from birth and raising a newborn. Building muscle tone now and maintaining it throughout your pregnancy will help massively in getting your body back after baby. Plus – the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, even while at rest! Pretty cool, right? The key to exercising is striking the balance between cardio and strength training, and you can work on muscle tone by incorporating dumbbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight resistance moves into your exercise routine. No need to go crazy with the weights, because the lighter stuff can do the trick! Try 2-3kg (5lbs) with higher repetitions to start and keep building in weight and lowering repetitions until you feel like you’ve hit the sweet spot. If you’re new to weights or bodyweight resistance, pop into your local gym to get some guidance on proper lifting techniques and form.


The benefits of moving more during pregnancy begin immediately and will directly benefit your health and your baby's health – so enjoy every second of it. If you’re unsure about anything at all, check with your obstetrician and take it from there. Also, we’ll say it just once more: make sure to listen to your body above all else, and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Share this resource