20 Best Types of Cardio and Prenatal Exercises for Moms-to-Be

20 Best Types of Cardio and Prenatal Exercises for Moms-to-Be

Finding out you’re pregnant brings a whole load of different emotions and thoughts. It’s so exciting and you feel so happy but there are also worries about how your pregnancy will go. How will it affect your body? How can you do the very best for your developing baby? Will you still be able to do the activities you love and carry on with your normal life throughout your pregnancy?

There’s no reason to make drastic changes to your daily life, especially in the first two trimesters. Maintaining an active life throughout the stages of your pregnancy has benefits for both you and your growing baby.


Why is it good to exercise throughout your pregnancy?

You know how good exercising is for your mental well-being, and during pregnancy it will help reduce stress and anxiety, and help you maintain your figure as much as possible throughout your pregnancy.  

You can prepare your body for the changes it will undergo and build strength in the areas that will carry new weight in the future. This can mean less back pain, less extra weight gain plus more energy, and a better body image. Women who keep fit have a lower incidence of hypertensive disorders and gestational diabetes during pregnancy and a faster recovery after birth. If you exercise you will return to your pre-pregnancy body shape much sooner too!

It actually has benefits for your baby, too. There is growing evidence that new babies whose mothers regularly exercised have improved heart and brain function. There is a lower incidence of preterm birth among mothers who exercise, and fewer emergency cesareans. It can reduce the chances of a low birth weight giving your baby the best possible start in life.


Can I Continue Going to the Gym When Pregnant?

If you are someone who already has a high level of fitness, there is no reason you can’t carry on with your usual exercise until late in your pregnancy, but check in with your doctor about what you’re doing regularly. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day.

They recommend swimming, walking, and running if you run regularly. In the gym, the elliptical, stair climbers and stationary bikes are good choices. You can continue to lift weights, but again, check in with your doctor if you lift heavy.

You can do classes such as low-impact aerobics and Zumba, but make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant so they can guide you through the best moves for you.

Best of all find a prenatal exercise class. You will get the support and friendship of other new moms, learn relaxation techniques, and have the benefit of a program designed especially for the needs of pregnancy.


Prenatal Exercises to Do at Home

You can also exercise at home to build up muscle strength and prepare your body for the changes in posture and weight distribution it will experience. 2-3 days of strength training targeting the major muscle groups every week will bring great benefits, improve spinal mobility, and strengthen those important abdominal muscles.

We’ve outlined some of the best exercises below, but don’t forget you can also do those outlined for the next trimester if you want to.


1st Trimester

Plank and crunches – unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you can still do the majority of ab exercises, so make the most of it while you can still see your toes easily!

Squats – squats are an ideal prenatal exercise. If you find them hard, use a chair for balance or use a chair, poof, or exercise ball to sit down on at the bottom of your squat.

Kneeling pushups – like normal pushups, but do them from a kneeling position. Try wide stance and narrow to target your triceps.

Bicep curls with small weights – you’d better leave the one-rep-max and personal best until after you’ve given birth, but continue working out with weights that are a comfortable test for you.

One-arm row with small weights – as above. Bend at the hips, soften the knees, keep your back straight and pull your elbows back to row. You can combine this with triceps kickback too.


2nd Trimester

The second trimester is often the time of your pregnancy when you feel best but you need to be careful with physical activity and avoid jumping and high impact and don’t overdo it until you are exhausted.

Pushups against a wall – If you no longer feel comfortable or able to do kneeling pushups, move to using the back of your couch or the wall.

Step up and down – a simple step up and down, with or without weight, is an easy way to work out your lower body without putting unnecessary stress on your body.

Standing boxer twist – stand up with your feet hip width apart. In both hands, hold a dumbbell out in front of you, with one hand on top of the other. Gently twist from side to side. Keep the movement slow and controlled, don’t be tempted to swing.


3rd Trimester

You will be feeling less mobile so take easy. Be aware of your body and stop if you feel any discomfort or pain. Concentrate on a few exercises such as:

Plie – this is a ballet term which involves essentially doing a wide squat. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder with, and gently lower your hips as far as comfortable, and then straighten. Keep your back straight and hold onto something for balance if necessary.

Lying leg raises – lie on your side with the leg under you bent. Straighten the leg on top and raise it carefully up and down. You should feel the burn in your hip, thighs, and glutes. Place a soft yoga mat or pillow under your stomach to make yourself more comfortable.

Gentle abdominal exercise – this is best if you’ve already been doing it throughout the course of your pregnancy. You can do anything gentle, and even plank, but stop if you feel uncomfortable.

Walking – get outside and walk! It’s one of the best ways to get exercise at this point, plus you’re essentially carrying a weighted backpack. Walk with friends, family, a podcast, or just to the sounds of the world passing. It’s a good opportunity to relax and be with yourself.


Don’t Forget To Exercise Safely

A few essential things to remember:

  • Always consult your doctor and Health Professionals before doing an exercise program
  • If you are new to exercise start slowly
  • Don’t do too much!
  • Make sure you don’t get too hot
  • Always warm up and cool down
  • Listen to your body at all times
  • Don’t lie on your back for too long
  • Avoid full sit-ups, double leg lifts, jumping, bouncing, sudden changes in direction and jerky movements
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water
  • Make sure you eat to keep up your energy


If you continue to exercise throughout your pregnancy, you’ll likely find it easier to give birth, and find it easier to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. It’s a win-win!

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