How to Stay Fit During Pregnancy
Are you expecting a baby? Congratulations! I have some extra good news for you: you don’t need to be wrapped up in bubble wrap for the next nine months – with the right guidance and approvals from your doctor, working out while pregnant will help you make the most of this exciting and special time.
During both my pregnancies, I received many messages on social media from people shocked to see that I was still exercising and using weights. Of course, it’s natural for us, as mamas-to-be, to have these concerns. Safety should always be your highest priority during pregnancy, and if you have underlying conditions or you are ever uncertain about any element of your health and fitness, I encourage you to speak with your doctor.
Over the years, so many women have asked me, “Is it safe to exercise while I’m pregnant?” that I decided to do something about it: My FIT Pregnancy program was created in collaboration with a team of experts (including a pre- & postnatal physiotherapist and dietitian) to keep you exercising safely and feeling your best through all three trimesters. It lets you do your pregnancy workouts at home with minimal equipment.
It’s not so much about getting fit during pregnancy as it is STAYING fit and strong for what’s to come. Staying active will boost your mood and energy levels by releasing endorphins, help you sleep better, prepare you for labour, reduce complications and time spent in labour, and even more benefits we’ll get into below. Plus, studies have shown that newborns whose mothers exercise during pregnancy develop more “athletic hearts” and may become physically coordinated sooner than other babies.
While pregnancy is not the time to be chasing major body composition goals – you should NOT be aiming to lose weight while pregnant! Putting healthy practices, including pregnancy workouts, into place will help you maintain your fitness and feel good.
How do you stay fit during pregnancy?
Safety should be your absolute priority when you’re staying active while pregnant – check out my guide on pregnancy-safe workouts for more information.
Staying fit and healthy at any point in your life comes down to two things – diet and exercise. While that holds true when you’re expecting, there are a few adjustments you’ll need to make to your pregnancy diet and exercise plan.
Pregnancy diet & nutrition
Nutrition, and getting enough energy to support your baby’s development and fuel your workouts is super important during pregnancy. And with each trimester, your energy needs will increase.
My FIT Pregnancy program takes all the hard work out of this for you by providing a specialised meal plan with all-pregnancy safe recipes, along with delicious snacks to meet your growing energy needs, plus tips on snacking, supplements, and making the switch to postpartum eating.
While it’s important to be eating nutrient-dense food and getting enough protein, fat and carbohydrates to support an active lifestyle, the bigger focus when you’re pregnant is on food safety and the things you should NOT eat.
Food hygiene: You should always follow good hygiene practices in preparing, storing and handling food, however, during pregnancy there is an increased focus on reducing your risk of listeriosis – a bacterial infection that can result in miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. So washing your hands, cookware and utensils thoroughly is essential, as is cooking hot foods thoroughly (no rare meat or runny eggs!) and consuming food while it’s hot.
Foods to avoid: To avoid the risk of listeriosis during pregnancy, you should avoid foods including raw seafood, cold cured meats (e.g. sliced ham), cold cooked chicken, pre-packaged salads or fruit salads, unwashed fruit and vegetables, rockmelon/cantaloupe, soft, semi-soft or surface-ripened cheeses, bean shoots, meat spreads, unpasteurised dairy products and soft-serve ice cream. You should also limit caffeine intake and avoid alcohol altogether when you’re pregnant.
Nausea during pregnancy: Is just reading about food giving you nausea? You’re not alone! More than 80% of pregnant women experience nausea and 50% may experience vomiting, especially in the first trimester – usually starting around weeks 5-9 of pregnancy.
If you experience nausea and vomiting, there may be some days you find it difficult to eat too much – on these days, you should just aim to do your best to keep your fluids up, and focus on nutritious foods when you can eat. My FIT dietitian’s tips to combat nausea include eating small meals and snacks across the day, rather than a big meal, opting for plain and simple foods, and trying nutritious smoothies or soups if you can’t keep solids down.
I know all this info can be overwhelming – but it’s all at your fingertips in FIT Pregnancy with expert guidance from our Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton.
Best pregnancy workouts
Your body is about to go through some amazing changes over the coming months, so it’s not quite training as usual. You’ll need to make a few adjustments to your workouts and modify some exercises, too – because touching your toes with a third-trimester-sized bump is near impossible!
While you should not aim to lose fat while pregnant, regular cardio exercise will help you prevent excessive gestational weight gain, which can increase your risk of high blood pressure and make it harder to lose weight after your baby is born. Cardio can improve circulation and reduce swelling in your legs, and is also essential to build endurance, which you’re going to need when you go into labour!
My FIT Pregnancy workouts include modified and low-impact HIIT exercises, with movements adjusted to reduce strain and limit risk in Trimester 2, and lower intensity in Trimester 3.
For your safety, I’ve designed the workouts to avoid crunches and other exercises performed lying on your back (which can restrict blood flow to your heart), high-intensity movements (which can cause overheating, dizziness, and blood pooling), plus core/abdominal exercises which can worsen diastasis recti (ab separation).
Yes, you can lift weights when you’re pregnant! A pregnancy weight lifting routine will keep you feeling strong and confident, and when done with good form it can prevent backaches and pelvic pain. It can also increase your physical and mental strength and stamina for labour – the toughest workout of all.
Strength training is a key part of FIT Pregnancy. Using dumbbells and kettlebells, we’ll do moves like rows, presses, curls, deadlifts, figure 8s and halos to keep you strong. In Trimester 2 I adjust the exercises to limit strain, and we’ll use lower weights in Trimester 3.
To be safe, you should be experienced in using free weights before you were pregnant. You should also take extra care, as your balance can be off during pregnancy.
Recovery and stretching
A LOT of things about the way your body changes during pregnancy can make you physically uncomfortable: aches, tightness, reduced mobility. By regularly stretching, you can reduce that discomfort and improve your range of motion. On top of the physical impacts, pregnancy can be a busy and stressful time, allowing time for recovery gives you a slice of calm and relaxation.
In FIT Pregnancy, stretching is key to every workout cool-down. If you love yoga, continuing to practice it during pregnancy will bring you similar benefits. (And I’ll get you onto the yoga mat in my FIT Post-Pregnancy program after bub arrives, too!)
Personal trainer • Founder
Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.
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