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The Best Workouts for Moms-to-Be (Trimester by Trimester)

Two pregnant women doing yoga in a studio.
fizkes/Shutterstock

Staying active while you’re pregnant offers a host of benefits, including improved moods and a decreased risk of hypertension. Here are some ways you can work out, no matter which stage of pregnancy you’re in.

Safety First: Talk to Your Doctor

Your workouts will need to change or be modified as your pregnancy advances. Not only will your belly start to get in the way, but your balance will be challenged as your center of gravity shifts. You’ll also have less oxygen to work with, leaving you huffing and puffing after only 10 minutes.

Before you get into workout mode, make sure you consult your ob-gyn for the green light. Some women need to be more careful than others. You might be advised to avoid strenuous workouts even during the first trimester. That’s why it’s important to know all the facts about your pregnancy before you put on that workout gear.

Your level activity prior to getting pregnant is also a factor. Someone who used to run marathons or do CrossFit drills definitely doesn’t fall in the same category as someone who only does yoga or doesn’t work out at all.

Of course, you also have to consider how you’re feeling. If you’re extremely fatigued and/or nauseous, you won’t be able to do the same workouts as someone who isn’t experiencing those symptoms.

If you’ve considered all these factors—and your doctor approves—try some of these workouts to stay active and healthy during each trimester.

The First Trimester

As we mentioned, there’s a big difference between those who used to work out before their pregnancy and those who didn’t. For this reason, we’ve divided the workouts into two groups: prior active lifestyle and just starting out.

Prior Active Lifestyle

In the first trimester, most women can continue the same workouts they did before. Just pay attention that you don’t run out of breath and respecting your energy and fatigue levels.

There are also some workouts that should be avoided, due to a high risk of falling or impact. These include contact sports, skiing, mountain biking, fencing, or any other activity that could cause a hit or fall.

When you’re pregnant, it’s also not uncommon to get dizzy or lose your balance. This is why it’s wise to avoid any activities that could lead to an injury or deliver any sort of impact on your belly.

Other than that, your energy levels will tell you how hard you can go—just don’t overdo it. Many women successfully run long distances, continue weight training, go hiking, and do plenty of high-intensive workouts while they’re pregnant.

However, others might feel like they need to take it down a notch. Regardless of which category you find yourself in, just don’t exceed your limits. Your body is changing, and there’s no reason to fight it.

Just Starting Out

If you don’t have prior workout experience, but want to start, take it slow and find someone to guide you through it. Take on a gentle prenatal yoga or Pilates practice, or try swimming. Definitely include plenty of daily walks. These will make you feel better and won’t elevate your heart rate as much, so you’ll reap all the benefits, while reducing swelling and joint pain.

Starting a workout routine is a great decision, but if you don’t have much prior experience, you want to avoid the risk of any potential mistakes or injuries. That’s why hiring a personal coach would be your best bet. There are plenty of trainers who specialize in prenatal workouts, so find one you vibe with and get stretching!

The Second Trimester

A pregnant woman doing yoga in a sunny room.
ZephyrMedia/Shutterstock

In the second trimester, things slowly start to change. Most women start physically showing and fatigue starts to kick in more severely. Additionally, lying on your back is generally not recommended as the entire weight of your growing uterus and baby rests on your back. Even sleeping on your back isn’t the best idea.

Crunches and other ab workouts will be harder as your belly grows, and twists and rapid movements should be avoided. Below are a few things you can try.

Prior Active Lifestyle

Women who’ve worked out before and during their first trimester can mostly continue their same workout routine. However, avoid any exercises that require you to lie on your back for long periods.

All contact sports and activities that require rapid movements or have a high risk of falling are off-limits—especially if you’re experiencing dizziness and nausea. Even the exercises you did in the first trimester might need to be slightly modified if you find yourself out of breath or overheated. You don’t want to risk oxygen deprivation or dehydration.

The best workouts are swimming, prenatal yoga or Pilates, resistance-band training, hiking, walking, indoor stationary biking, the elliptical, or a StairMaster. If you have an established running routine, you can absolutely continue it through your second trimester. However, it’s best to extend your recovery time and drop your miles. If you could run 10 miles in your first trimester, drop it to six or eight, and find a comfortable pace where you’re not finding yourself out of breath.

Those with a weight-lifting routine can safely continue, but pay attention to how you’re feeling during your workout. Placing a loaded bar on your shoulders can cause you to feel dizzy, so modify your movements and drop some weight where needed.

Just Starting Out

If working out wasn’t your thing before you got pregnant, the second trimester can feel a bit tricky. Take on swimming or long walks, but pay attention to your heart rate and fatigue. Don’t overdo it, and always have a bottle of water with you.

You can also hire a personal prenatal yoga or Pilates teacher. He or she will guide you through safe movements that will help you release tension and pain, while opening your hips and joints.

The Third Trimester

As you enter your third trimester, you’re most likely going to feel the limits of your workouts. Your belly will continue getting bigger, and your balance will completely be out of whack. You’re also going to feel more tired and exhausted. Even simple chores, like cleaning your kitchen table or taking a shower, will feel like a workout.

In the third trimester, it’s important to take it slow and avoid any high-impact activities. Just move your body however much and however often you can.

Even if you have an impressive fitness background, taking it easy these last three months applies to everyone. Now is not the time to try to break any running records or win a weightlifting championship.

This is a time when any workout should only be about keeping you and your baby healthy. Anything that lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, while boosting your mood and helping with swollen ankles is what’s in order.

Gentle prenatal yoga and Pilates, as well as swimming and walking, are the absolute best exercises you can continue doing up to the moment you have to go to the hospital. Only do exercises that make you feel good and take breaks whenever you need them.


Maintaining a healthy exercise routine while you’re pregnant can only do you good, so listen to your doctor’s advice and what your body tells you. Every day will be different, and every trimester comes with its own challenges, so just keep breathing through it!

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »

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