Exercise Guidelines for Each Trimester

While we know the benefits of staying active during pregnancy, it can be difficult to navigate the dos and don'ts as we move from one trimester to the next. We spoke to pre and post-natal exercise specialist, Tammy Obst, to get some insights. Tammy is based in Adelaide and has recently developed an online studio featuring live-streamed workouts that you can do from home.

Tammy says: "Pregnancy is such an exciting time but it can also be a confusing time for many women to know what exercise they should make a priority or should avoid. These guidelines are designed to give you structure and prepare you for the changes your body will go through during each trimester of pregnancy."


First Trimester

Welcome to the first trimester, a time when your hormones are changing rapidly, your energy levels have more than likely been zapped and you're feeling like bland food is your new best friend. During these first few months, it's so important to listen to your body and be okay with sometimes saying no to certain events and just resting. 

Key exercise tips for the first trimester: 

  • Continue doing your usual exercise routine when you have the energy.
  • Keep an eye on your heart rate as it can sometimes be higher than normal during the first trimester. A good way to check is using the 'talk test' - you should be able to maintain a conversation with someone next to you.
  • Some good cardiovascular exercises include walking, swimming, indoor cycling and cross training.
  • Pilates, yoga and functional strength training also help strengthen your body for pregnancy postural changes, labour and post-baby recovery.
  • Make sure you drink at least 2L of water per day to increase digestion and help prevent fluid retention. This is also the time to start focusing on core breathing and pelvic floor exercises. 

Second Trimester

This trimester is known to most women as the 'wonder months' of pregnancy, a time when the sickness generally calms down and the nerves of making it through your first trimester lift. As your energy returns, this can be a great time to resume more regular exercise. Always speak with your GP or OBGYN before commencing a new exercise program.

Key exercise tips for the second trimester:

  • Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week including 2-3 cardio sessions and 2-3 strength or pilates workouts.
  • Each session should ideally last between 30-45 minutes. If you haven't previously exercised, start slowly with 10-15 minutes per day and build up from there.
  • You can continue doing cardio including walking, swimming, indoor cycling and cross training, along with pilates, yoga and functional strength training.
  • However, you should now avoid crunches, sit-ups, frontal planks, plyometric style movements, jumping exercises, chin-ups and pull-ups, heavy lifting over head and any activity that involves holding your breath. 
  • Start to implement the pregnancy rollover to get in and out of bed and off the couch to avoid putting pressure on your abdominal muscles.
  • Include regular water-based training to reduce core temperature and chances of varicose veins.

    Third Trimester

    Congratulations on getting to this point in your pregnancy, you are no doubt starting to have some struggles with sleep and aches and pains. If you don't already have one, get yourself a pregnancy pillow for between your legs in bed to help support your pelvis. Regular stretching and strength work will also help to stay on top of the aches and pains. 

    Key exercise tips for the second trimester:

    • Heading into the third trimester, it's important to spend longer warming up (aim for 10 minutes) and to be mindful of relaxing and softening ligaments surrounding the pelvis
    • Focus on doing shorter pilates and endurance strength sessions with higher reps and less rest to prepare for birth.
    • Walking is a great alternative to higher impact exercise during the third trimester especially if you can focus on diaphragmatic breathing as you walk to relax and activate your pelvic floor.
    • You should focus on your pelvic floor and core during daily movements such as picking up groceries and getting the pram or other items out of the car.
    • It's safe to continue doing 150 minutes of exercise per week as long as you can. That said, you should listen to your body, rest when you need and don't feel bad for sitting down or choosing sleep over movement!

    Follow Tammy on Instagram @tamobst for videos and some great tips on pregnancy and postpartum health and fitness. Tammy has also given us a discount to her At Home Studio, which includes three live-streamed workouts a week. You can take a look here.

    PLEASE NOTE: we recommend speaking to your doctor if you are unsure about beginning or resuming exercise during pregnancy.  

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