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Many women can be very unsure what sort of exercise they can do while they’re pregnant; or, if they should exercise at all during pregnancy. There seems to be lots of contradictory and out-dated advice available which can be difficult to sift through.The good news is, exercising safely while pregnant has a number of benefits for mums-to-be.

Benefits may include: Improved circulation, reduced swelling, reduced leg cramps, easier and shorter labour time, improved body awareness, quicker post-natal recovery, reduced maternal weight gain, reduction in labour pain, offset postural imbalances and lesser risk of lower back pain or spinal issues, practical strength for when baby arrives… to name a few!

But, how much is too much? What kind of exercises are suitable? How many repetitions and sets? What should you avoid? What impact will changing hormones have? How much more should you be eating? How much weight should you expect to put on?

All is explained here…


Additional Calories Needed Each Day: 0 (RDA)

Expected Total Weight Gain by End of Trimester: 7-11lbs

Sets & Repetitions When Exercising: 3-4 sets, 8-15 reps

Hormone Issues and Things To Consider:

A mild level of relaxin (a hormone which creates more mobile joints in order to allow baby to grow freely and a relaxation of blood vessels) is released in the body and causes a lowering in blood pressure known as vascular underfill. As a result, fatigue and dizziness or nausea can be experienced after a relatively short spell of intense exercise. Heart rate is likely to become elevated during a lower intensity of exercise than pre-pregnancy.

Avoid: Working to fatigue, circuit-style training or high intensity training that doesn’t allow for rest or changes muscle groups quickly such as a legs and shoulders super-set. “Hard work” can still take place, but be aware of how you feel and don’t push if you feel nauseous or light headed. Avoid laying on your back for extended periods.


Additional Calories Needed Each Day:150Kcal (RDA)

Expected Total Weight Gain by End of Trimester: 11-22lbs

Sets & Repetitions When Exercising: 2-3 sets, 10-15 reps

Hormone Issues and Things To Consider:

Water retention is increased and as a result heart rate and blood pressure is normalised. Many experience a new lease of energy towards the end of the trimester. Relaxin release surges so be mindful of placing large loads on vulnerable joints, particularly hips, lower back and shoulders. Improvement in body temperature regulation – a much earlier onset of sweating. As weight increases there is an increased chance of thoracic kyphosis (rounded/arched upper spine).

Avoid: Assisted stretching for extended periods or stretching beyond a normal range of motion. Avoid training for extended periods without hydration breaks and continue taking

on fluids throughout the day. Don’t allow for improper posture to be held during exercise; emphasise a strong, braced and neutral spine at all times.


Additional Calories Needed Each Day:300Kcal (RDA)

Expected Total Weight Gain by End of Trimester: 23-33lbs

Sets & Repetitions When Exercising: 1-2 sets, 15-20 reps

Hormone Issues and Things To Consider:

Fatigue is experienced much earlier. Balance becomes an issue and relaxin is at it’s highest. Weight may increase by as much as 1lb per week at this stage. As a result, avoid exercises that rely heavily on balance or place an unnatural pressure on joints such as sumo stance squats and dumbbell flys. A more suitable variation would be body weight squats and chest press machine. Trimester blood volume increases by 30%-50% and cardiac output by 20%-30% so pregnant mother will begin fatiguing sooner due to increased workload. Overheating should be considered at this stage so use suitable clothing dependent on your environment (cold gyms, direct sunlight etc). It may be difficult to elevate the heart rate during this trimester.

Avoid: Working in direct sunlight for extended periods, balance-based exercises, standing for extended periods and placing pressure on the front of the body. Avoid laying on your front or static holds such as planks for lengthy periods.


Of course, pregnancy is a very personal experience and no two pregnancy experiences will be identical. The advice and guidelines above are general guidelines that you should aim to follow. However, if there are any unpredictated adjustment or conditions that occur then always seek medical advice.

There are a number of contraindications to exercising while pregnant – especially if you aren’t already a regular exerciser. Before attempting to exercise during pregnancy always seek clearance to do-so from your GP. Then, seek a pre/post natal qualified trainer to guide you through the ever-changing process and take away any of the guess work.

NB: Not ALL qualified personal trainers are qualified to train clients during their pregnancy.

Always keep in mind “Mum knows best” – don’t be encouraged to do anything that you feel very uncomfortable doing. Some pregnant ladies will run throughout pregnancy and other will feel uncomfortable doing it from a very early stage. Do what you’re happy to do, now what you “should” do.