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Pregnancy Workouts: The Big 12 Guidelines

Follow the Big 12 pregnancy workout recommendations for uncomplicated pregnancies.

  1. An hour before exercise, eat a snack with complex carbs, protein and a little fat. Drink about a cup (eight ounces) of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. This is in addition to daily fluid intake.
  2. Gauge your level of intensity by using Rate of Perceived Exertion or the Talk Test.
  3. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days a week and adjust as needed.  Include aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises.
  4. Avoid hot and humid environments.  If you exercise more than 50 minutes, please check out the Fit Pregnancy suggestions.
  5. If you have a moderate exercise routine, keep it up! If previously inactive, don’t suddenly start an aggressive exercise routine, but adapt slowly. And exercise veterans should be able to sustain the same amount of working out with some modifications.
  6. Exhale on the effort of each exercise.  Don’t hold your breath! Avoid the valsalva maneuver.
  7. Your body is smart — it bears a child — so listen to it. Do only what you are comfortable with. There is no one-size-fits-all exercise for pregnant women, and you will be more tired on some days than on others. Which also means your RPE (your effort level) will be different on different days, especially in the first trimester.
  8. If just beginning exercise — or coming from a sedentary lifestyle — start with low intensity, short periods of exercise and gradually increase.  Ideally start with 15 minutes of walking or swimming three times a week.  And gradually increase to 20-30 minutes four times a week.
  9. Each trimester, the way the body, especially the circulatory and respiratory systems, reacts to exercise is different, which is why you should make modifications as pregnancy progresses, specifically after 20 weeks gestation.  Check out the exact adaptations for first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester.
  10. Avoid lying on your back, standing still for long periods of time, and repetitive, strenuous movements. Contact sports are off-limits, as are activities that carry a risk for falling.  Avoid humid or hot environments. ACSM does not recommend hot yoga or hot Pilates (regulating core temperature is in the newest ACOG guideline ACOG’s Committee Opinion 804, but does not give a specific recommendation for Hot Yoga or Hot Pilates).
  11. If diastasis recti — a separation of the right- and left-side muscles of your belly—occurs, then it’s recommended stay away from most twisting motions, planks, quadruped positions, and crunches — any movements that add stress to the tissues. Our pregnancy workouts are modified for this condition.
  12. Of course, get your doctor’s permission before beginning any exercise routine. Stop  and seek your doctor if any of the following occur: persistent  excessive shortness of breath, chest pain, regular and/or painful contractions, vaginal bleeding, loss of fluid, dizziness that doesn’t resolve with rest (accessed from ACSM Pregnancy Physical Activity).

Download the Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Guide

Smart fitness for moms in any stage: bump, new baby, and beyond.