Can I Train When I'm Pregnant?

For all the joy pregnancy can bring with it, it can also be a confusing time with many regular routines going out the window. Understanding what you can and can’t do when it comes to your exercise regime is useful to know, not least because it can seriously boost your mood while you’re expecting, can help decrease any pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing and help you recover more quickly postpartum. Read on to discover the ins and outs…

Is it safe to exercise?

Whether you’re a gym bunny or a total newcomer to training, the good news is that exercising while you’re pregnant is totally safe – and recommended. Sure, you may need to modify your usual routine if you've been training hard for years and it’s wise to check with a healthcare practitioner before you take on anything new, but the upshot is that working out during your pregnancy can have huge benefits including a smoother birth experience, less experiences of back pain, a shorter period to return to the pre pregnancy condition and less incidences of depression during the pregnancy; according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) around 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day is the sweet spot. Maintaining a healthy workout routine can also help once you’ve delivered your baby too, “It’s actually often reported that people who do exercise safely throughout their pregnancy can have smoother experiences and can revert back to their pre pregnant condition quicker,” says Lee Mullins, Workshop’s founder.

What exercises are best?

When it comes to choosing how to workout, it’s entirely down to what suits you. “This is a very individualised thing as it will really depend on what exercises you were performing prior them falling pregnant, and your training experience,” advises Lee. “Stick to foundational movements that don’t beat up your joints, exercises such as bodyweight squats or goblet squats are great, most row variations such as a dumbbell row or TRX rows are fantastic, and any exercises that strengthen your core without adding direct stress to your abdominals such as bird dogs or Pallof presses are also great.” If you’re new to exercise but want to keep moving while you’re expecting, think about swimming (as and when restrictions allow). As well as providing relief for pregnancy-induced nausea and swollen hands and feet, a gentle swim is ideal for supporting loosening joints and ligaments, your body’s natural response to the pregnancy hormones flooding your body.

Exercises to avoid

While there are plenty of options to look at when you’re expecting there are some exercises and forms of training that are rightly off limits for pregnant mums. “In general, any exercises that are higher risk such as contact sports. Again, this will be an individualised thing, but I would encourage anyone who is pregnant to remind themselves of their purpose and aim of exercising whilst pregnant. I don’t think it’s smart to be performing things like plyometric exercises, such as jump squats, as the aim of this is to improve explosiveness and jump height to name a few and I don’t believe these are important goals if you’re pregnant.” Clearly any sports that carry an increased risk of abdominal injury or falling are not advised, as are any exercises that involve you lying flat on your back for extended periods of time. That’s because the weight of your growing uterus can compress major blood vessels and restrict circulation to both you and your baby. And while Pilates and yoga are both excellent choices for improving and strengthening flexibility and muscle tone, avoid the temptation to continue with your hot yoga sessions for now. Anything that raises your body temperature too much is a no-no as it can cause your body to re-route blood away from your uterus to try and cool down. That means you’ll need to steer clear of post workout saunas and steam rooms too.

What to try if you’re new to exercise

“My advice would be to choose exercises that have a lower risk of injury and focus on exercises that help keep your lower back strong,” says Lee. “A combination of cardio and strength training is a great idea as both will provide unique benefits. Aim to stick to low to moderate levels of intensity throughout your pregnancy and avoid pushing yourself to a higher intensity level.”

If all else fails, walk

“I think we often underestimate how moving more frequently throughout the day by walking can be so good for the body,” say Lee. Not only is walking an easy form of exercise to factor into your day, it’s something that can be done consistently from week one right through to week 40 without the need for any special equipment. As well as being a great way to keep your heart and muscles strong, which will certainly come in handy during labour, walking keeps you fit and can help ward off gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. It’s also the perfect time to do your pelvic floor exercises, which come under a lot of strain during pregnancy and labour, and it has the added bonus of having plenty of proven mental health benefits too. One caveat; as your belly expands, your centre of gravity changes, so take it slowly and listen to your body at all times.