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Nutrition & Exercise

Q&A: Exercising While Pregnant?

Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?

Tracey Mallett: You’ve probably heard that pregnancy and labor will be easier if you’re in good shape, but your first trimester isn’t the time to start a whole new workout routine. If you already workout regularly, it’s usually okay to keep it up through your first trimester, but be sure to check with your doctor first. The best exercise regimen for the first trimester? Walking and stretching on a daily basis. Here’s why:

1. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by a whopping 50 percent. As a result of all this extra blood circulating in your body, your heart rate is higher — even at rest — and exercise may feel more difficult, especially in the first trimester. This additional blood volume also causes you to take deeper, faster breaths and lowers your blood pressure.

2. Cardiac output also increases. In fact, it’s 30 to 40 percent higher than it was before you got pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you can safely engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days. Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, using an elliptical, and low-impact aerobics are perfect cardio options as your pregnancy progresses, since these activities don't put any pressure on your joints, loose ligaments, or pelvic floor. Listen to your body and make sure your rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is around 7. Try the talk test: If you cannot hold a conversation while exercising, you're working out too hard and need to slow down or lower the intensity.

3. Your heart rate will be much higher than before you were pregnant, so it’s important that you give yourself plenty of time to cool down. It can take up to 15 minutes. Stop exercising when you start feeling tired and never work to exhaustion.

Need more direction? Download my quick and easy (I promise) workout plan here.

By Tracey Mallett