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Safe, Effective Exercises for Every Stage of Pregnancy

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Aches and pains, muscle tightness, nausea, fatigue: there are a million reasons why you may not feel like exercising while pregnant, but these same unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy are the very ones that exercise can help alleviate. Once you establish a regular routine, you'll find you have more energy, less discomfort, and sleep better. And by choosing safe, gentle activities appropriate to every stage of pregnancy, you can rest easy that you're doing what's best for you and for your baby. Just don't forget your workout basics: stay hydrated, listen to your body, immediately discontinue any exercise that's making you feel pain or discomfort and talk to your doctor before resuming.

Be sure to consult your physician before starting any new exercise routine, and go slow! Gentle, consistent effort will produce better results than intense bursts of activity, while also decreasing the likelihood of injuries. Moms with more complicated pregnancies may have additional restrictions placed on what they can do and when, so ask your doctor what's right for you.

First Trimester

In the first trimester you are probably not that much bigger yet (though some mothers, especially those who've already had children, may start "showing" earlier) which means you can hopefully still move comfortably – and maybe even touch your toes!

Fatigue and nausea are the two most common early-pregnancy complaints, and both can be alleviated with exercise. Swimming, in particular, can help alleviate morning sickness, so invest in a maternity suit and go for a dip!

Take advantage of this time of relatively free movement to do things a little more active, like running, rowing, cross-country skiing, or tennis. If you were already an active exerciser, it's probably safe to continue doing what you were doing before (though make sure to clear that with a doctor).

Now is also a great time to establish a new fitness routine that will carry you all the way through pregnancy and beyond. Swimming, walking, yoga, and pilates are just some gentle, effective choices you can start now and keep doing in some cases right up to your due date!

Second Trimester

You're getting bigger, and with that growing belly you might find it hard to get used to your new body size. Now is the time you may want to cut out activities that rely on balance, like cycling and downhill skiing, or any contact sports like kickboxing or martial arts.

Your growing body is also putting strain on your muscles and joints, which is why low-impact exercise is ideal now.

If you were already an active runner before you got pregnant, you can likely continue to run now, but be aware of how your joints feel, stay hydrated, and make sure you don't get so winded that you have difficulty speaking or breathing. When in doubt, stop and talk to your doctor.

Third Trimester

By now you're likely thinking about labor – and exercise can be an excellent way to prepare! Continue with the yoga, pilates, swimming, walking, and other safe workouts you've adopted so far in your pregnancy, but consider adding some moves specifically intended to prepare for labor day.

Health experts recommend you practice pelvic tilts and squats to prepare your body for the big day. And don't forget your Kegels! These are more important now than ever as you seek to make labor and post-labor recovery as fast and easy as possible. Of course, make sure to check with your doctor first, since in certain cases, squats and tilts can be unsafe for women at risk of premature labor.

Just as in the second trimester, you'll want to be mindful of how your growing body has shifted your weight and balance, and be sure you don't push yourself so hard that you have difficulty speaking or breathing, or feel dizzy, dehydrated, or overheated.

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