You’ve probably heard that pregnancy and labor and delivery 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 work out regularly, it’s usually okay to keep up with whatever you're doing through your first trimester, but be sure to check with your doctor to make sure. If you haven't been hitting the gym much lately you'll want to ease into it. The best exercise regimen for the first trimester? Walking and stretching on a daily basis. Here’s why a low-impact routine is the way to go:
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 rate 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 to bring your RPE down.
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 if and when you start feeling tired and never work yourself to exhaustion.
Need more direction? Try this pregnancy DVD from Tracey Mallett.