6 Exercises in First Trimester: When To Start & Its Benefits

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Indulging in regular and safe exercises in first trimester could increase the chances of vaginal delivery (1). It is vital not only for physical well-being but also to help cope with mental stress during pregnancy. Exercising helps maintain healthy body weight, improves sleep, and regulates mood.

First trimester exercises can also help reduce the risk of fetal complications such as premature birth and congenital type-II diabetes. Read this post to know about some safe first trimester exercises, associated health benefits, and safety tips to follow while exercising in pregnancy.

Is It Safe To Exercise In The First Trimester?

It is healthy and safe to practice exercises in the first trimester unless you have certain health complications and your doctor has set restrictions (2).

Practicing exercises during the first trimester might help increase the core strength of muscles. If you are already engaged in physical activity before getting pregnant, it is okay to continue exercise in pregnancy (3).

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) guidelines do not restrict pregnant women from exercising up to any maximum heart rate (4). You may choose your comfort level and workout moderately for at least 150 minutes throughout the week for substantial health benefits (5).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), performing exercise has no adverse effects on birthweight and stillbirth (5).

What Are The Benefits Of Exercise During Pregnancy?

WHO recommends performing exercise during pregnancy to reduce the risk of (5):

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Gestational hypertension or high blood pressure disorders
  • Gestational diabetes mellitus
  • Lung disease
  • Gestational weight gain
  • Delivery complications
  • Postpartum depression
  • Newborn complications

When To Start Exercising During Pregnancy?

According to the WHO, involving in physical activity is better than a sedentary lifestyle (4). Any exercise is beneficial, and including it right from the beginning of the first trimester will lead to a healthy delivery.

It might not be easy for beginners to start the exercise, but having your partner or a friend would help you keep going. However, if you were already involved in vigorous activity or physically active, you may continue it during pregnancy and postpartum. You may consult your physician or healthcare provider to make an exercise plan for you.

Which Exercises Are Safe In The First Trimester?

Some of the safe and beneficial exercises you can do in the first trimester of pregnancy are (1) (6) (7):

  1. Walking and running: Cardiovascular exercises such as walking and running are easy to do and can help improve your cardiovascular health. Practicing cardio sessions will allow you to gain stamina and endurance. Avoid sprinting as it may unnecessarily make you gasp.
  1. Swimming and water aerobics: Swimming combines cardiovascular benefits and also trains and shapes your muscles.
  1. Dancing: It is relatively safe as long as you dance gently in the first trimester, and it helps get rid of your stress and aids blood circulation.
  1. Cycling: If you are comfortable with cycling, it is good to take some fresh air in the morning or go mountain biking. A stationary bike is ideal as it helps prevent falling over.
  1. Yoga and pranayama: Practicing prenatal yoga can help tone your muscles and rejuvenate your body. Pranayama, a breathing exercise, can help you increase your ventilatory functions.
  1. Pilates: Practicing pilates in the first trimester can help improve your muscle strength, posture, and flexibility. You may avoid stretches such as deep back-bend, as it is strenuous and uncomfortable.

When Should You Avoid Exercise?

According to the WHO guidelines, you should avoid any physical activity if (5):

  • There is an excessive heat outside
  • You have traveled to high altitudes, as it may limit oxygenation
  • There is a risk of falling from an elevated level
  • There is a risk of physical contact with people around.

How To Exercise Safely In The First Trimester?

Some safety measures to follow while exercising in the  first trimester are (5):

  • Drink water at regular intervals and stay hydrated before, during, and after physical activity.
  • Avoid supine position after the first trimester.
  • While participating in athletic competitions, seek a doctor’s advice if it is safe for you.
  • When trying a new exercise, consult your healthcare provider or your midwife for any recommendations. They may guide you through the correct postures and let you know the risks involved.
  • Avoid postures that involve stomach stretches and lying back.
  • Inform your trainer about your pregnancy while joining an exercise class. It will help them streamline the activities that suit you best.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I do squats in the first trimester?

Squatting is beneficial and safe during the first trimester (8). If you are already practicing squats, you can continue during this period. However, if you are doing them for the first time in pregnancy, then do them gently and progressively with lighter loads at the beginning. Since squats are a little difficult to master, doing them progressively from the first trimester will help strengthen your thighs and pelvic muscles (9).

2. Can exercising cause miscarriage?

There is no scientific evidence establishing a connection between physical activity and the risk of miscarriage or any other fetal complications (10). However, recent evidence suggests practicing regular physical activity can help improve maternal health and reduce fetal complications.

3. What exercises should I avoid in the first trimester?

Exercising during pregnancy helps you stay physically healthy and reduces the risks of complications. However, do not overstress yourself with heavy exercises or include those carrying risks to your stomach and abdomen as they might affect the fetus. Examples of activities you should avoid during the first trimester are scuba diving, skiing, hot yoga, playing basketball or volleyball, and riding a horse (6).

First-trimester exercises are vital for a healthy pregnancy. Starting a workout routine in the first trimester can help boost maternal and fetal health substantially. It also helps reduce pregnancy complications and pave the way towards a vaginal delivery. If you are already involved in intense aerobic exercise before pregnancy, you may continue the regime during the first trimester. However, ensure to consult your healthcare provider before including an exercise routine.

Key Pointers

  • Healthy pregnant women may safely carry out exercises during the first trimester under the guidance of Ob/Gyn.
  • Exercising may help reduce the risks of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, delivery problems, and gestational diabetes.
  • Walking, swimming, and cycling are safe exercises for the first trimester.
  • Ensure to follow the safety and preventive measures to avoid any complications.
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Anshuman Mohapatra

Anshuman Mohapatra is a biotechnology scientist with more than six years of research experience in analytical chemistry and biotechnology. He has submitted his PhD thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and served as a research fellow (JRF/SRF) during his PhD tenure. His research interest includes analytical chemistry, neurobiology and lipid disorder diseases. Three of his research... more

Dr. Ahmar Shah

(MBBS, MCPS, FCPS, FRCOG, LLM)
Dr. Ahmar Shah works as a gynecologist at Yeovil District Hospital in Somerset UK, where he is a clinical director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, leading the colposcopy service. He graduated in medicine from the University of Karachi and got trained in obstetrics and gynecology in the UK (Eastern Deanery - Cambridge). He has been a member of the Royal College... more