Prenatal Fitness: What’s the deal?

Last Updated: February 16, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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So, in the back of all our minds, we know that it’s important to work out for our overall health. But, for many of us (hello, me included!) working out just doesn’t take priority in our everyday life.

But let me tell you – if there’s ever a time in your life to start moving more and incorporating workouts into your daily routine – it’s now, while you’re pregnant! There are seriously SO many benefits to working out while pregnant.

And maybe that’s not you. Maybe you already do work out regularly! And that’s awesome. Choosing a fitness program that’s specific to pregnancy is going to help you better tailor your workouts so you know you’re getting exactly what your body needs.

Here we’re going to talk about the benefits of prenatal fitness and where to start!

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7 Benefits of prenatal fitness

  1. Shorter labor and delivery: This 2018 study showed that women who exercise during pregnancy will have a significantly shorter labor AND delivery than those don’t
  2. Higher chance of a natural birth: The same study showed a correlation between regular exercise during pregnancy to less epidural use during labor
  3. Keeps mood swings at bay and may decrease risk of PPD: Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that make you literally happier
  4. Boosts your energy: When you’re exhausted, it can be hard to get a work out in, but you WILL feel more energized if you can get yourself moving
  5. Can help you meet your target weight gain: Healthy weight gains are different for every mama, but exercise can help you keep your number in check
  6. Minimizes pregnancy discomforts: Prenatal fitness helps with back, hip, and pelvic pain, leg and joint swelling, eases constipation, and can help you sleep better!
  7. Easier postpartum recovery: Participating in a fitness routine designed for pregnant mamas will help you strengthen your pelvic floor and core now for an easier recovery after birth

Prenatal fitness FAQs

Wow! That list of benefits is hard to argue with, am I right? There is seriously so much good to be had from staying active during pregnancy. But here’s the thing, this could be in the form of a full-blown prenatal fitness program, but if that’s just not you, then find a way to move your body that you DO love.

This could be adding a brisk walk to your day, swimming, or hiking. Let me share some more info with you guys and answer some of the most common prenatal fitness FAQs I hear.

Pregnancy safe exercises

Okay, so we already talked about all of the benefits above, but I wanted to chime in here with the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends getting about 30 minutes of activity every day!

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Here are a few GREAT ways to move during your pregnancy:

  • Brisk walking
  • Yoga
  • Ball exercises (an exercise ball can be great to use during labor too!)
  • Squats/Pliés (also great for getting baby engaged for labor!)
  • Swimming
  • Biking on a stationary bike (regular biking isn’t recommended because you are more likely to fall)
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Elliptical
  • Jogging (if you were running before pregnancy)

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Can I workout while pregnant?

Most of the time, YES! Generally, if you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation as long as it’s a no-contact activity. But it’s ALWAYS a good idea to check with your provider first.

Also! Don’t necessarily feel like you have to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. And if you weren’t physically active before your pregnancy, now is a great time to start! Start slow and work up your endurance.

What about exercising in the first trimester?

I was SO tired in the first trimester of my second pregnancy that I barely had the energy to care of my kiddo…so exercise? Um no way. BUT…I did find that the days I did find the energy to move…I felt SO good, and it actually helped my fatigue (and my mental state) SO much.

prenatal fitness infographic

Here is a list of things that are totally safe for the first trimester:

  • Yoga
  • Floor work
  • Cardio
  • Lunges
  • Push ups
  • Squats

Can I run during pregnancy?

prenatal fitness infographic

The answer is YES – with a grain of salt! If you were an avid runner before pregnancy and you’ve been cleared for exercising during your pregnancy (aka you have no high-risk factors) – there is no reason why you can’t continue running!

With this said, it’s important to take it slow, and realize that you MAY not be able to run at the speed or capacity you were able to before you were pregnant. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, or something just doesn’t feel right – slow down and take a break! You may be 100% fine to continue, but some women are not so it’s very important to listen to your body.

I personally WAS a runner before I got pregnant with Walter. But once I got pregnant, I just couldn’t do it anymore! It was May in North Carolina and the humidity was too much for me, so I decided to take up walking instead.

Running is a great form of exercise, and exercise is always encouraged during pregnancy as long as you don’t have contraindications. If you’re like I was, and running is just too much, switch it up and opt for one of the lower-impact options discussed in this article.

Additional pregnancy health and wellness resources

I wanted to round out this article by pointing you toward some other articles, podcast episodes, and content here at MLN that can help you feel your best throughout your pregnancy!

Prenatal care workshop
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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