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How to Safely Exercise in the Third Trimester of Pregnancy

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Exercise during the third trimester

Women who exercise during pregnancy enjoy many health benefits. Some of these benefits include improved:

Experts have recommendedTrusted Source low- to moderate-intensity activity for years.

You can even maintain vigorous activity, like jogging, throughout pregnancy with permission from your doctor. Still, there are precautions pregnant women must consider to keep both mom and baby healthy.

“During pregnancy, joints loosen and balance is more difficult,” explains Pilates instructor and health coach Kate Marcin. “Doing exercises that stabilize the connections at the joints will prevent injury.”

Safety is crucial, so you should always talk with your healthcare provider before engaging in any new fitness program. Pregnancy, especially later in pregnancy, isn’t a time to begin a robust exercise routine. Those who have been inactive should start with walking.

During the third trimester, you typically want to avoid activities that require:

  • jumping
  • hopping
  • skipping
  • bouncing

Read on to learn about some workouts you can continue into your third trimester.

Walking and jogging

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women. If walking isn’t enough of a cardiovascular challenge, try jogging instead.

However, pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine. If you’ve kept it up through week 27, there’s no need to stop unless you have certain health issues or discomfort.

A study published by Sports Health examined 110 competitive female distance runners and their habits throughout pregnancy. Of the 70 percent who chose to keep their running routine, 31 percent continued running into their third trimesters.

The key here is reducing training duration and intensity. Even seasoned athletes cut their usual efforts in half or more. In other words, if your pace or body doesn’t feel good, slow it down or stop to walk instead.

Swimming and aqua aerobics

If you have access to a pool, take advantage of aqua sports. Lap swimming is an excellent total-body exercise. It can also be therapeutic for women who have aches and pains. Water takes the pressure off tired legs and backs and helps prevent overheating.

Keep in mind that exertion, even in cool water, produces sweat. If you swim for long periods, hydrate as you would while doing workouts out of the pool.

There are lots of aerobics classes adapted for underwater enjoyment. Zumba in the pool gets you dancing with added resistance. Joint and flexibility classes offer gentle ways to test your range of motion with the support of water.

Aqua jogging is wonderful for runners who don’t feel comfortable with impact in later pregnancy. Some gyms are even putting stationary bikes in water.

Yoga, Pilates, barre, and other low-impact exercises

Low-impact exercises are great for women in their third trimester. Examples include:

These workouts target all the major muscle groups. This can help you feel fit and strong for delivery.

Try taking classes specifically designed for pregnant women. The poses are modified so they’re safe and more comfortable as your baby grows during their final weeks.

“Pilates is a fantastic way for women to build core stability during pregnancy,” explains Marcin. “The core weakens as the bump grows, and can lead to back pain and sciatica.”

Classic Pilates mat moves “strengthen the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis, which improves overall posture, and can be useful when pushing,” she says.

Research has shown that yoga can ease the anxiety and depression that sometimes accompany pregnancy. In a study published by Complementary Therapies in Clinical PracticeTrusted Source, a group of pregnant women experiencing depression were assigned a 20-minute yoga class from weeks 22 through 34 of their pregnancies.

The results were positive in all areas of physical and mental well-being. The women reported mood improvements, decreases in pain, and a lower incidence of preterm labor and Cesarean delivery.

Bodyweight and toning moves

Heavy weights can be dangerous in the third trimester, especially if you aren’t used to lifting. Try bodyweight workouts to maintain strength, such as:

  • squats
  • modified planks
  • wall pushups

Avoid crunches and ab work that have you flat on your back. “In the third trimester, lying on your back for long periods of time can be tricky,” says Marcin. She recommends side-lying work that helps stabilize muscles and other areas, including the:

  • glutes
  • outer hips
  • inner thighs
  • hamstrings

With weights, Marcin recommends using light weights when doing arm work. It’s best to build up strength early since babies are heavy. Try the following exercises with a pair of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells:

  • basic bicep curls
  • lateral raises
  • triceps work

Fit mom, healthy baby

The third trimester of pregnancy is filled with all sorts of thoughts, emotions, and even more physical changes. For those of you who are used to being fit, even just 20 minutes of exercise a day can alleviate many of these symptoms, give you a boost of energy, and strengthen your body for delivery.

These healthy habits are wonderful to develop now and continue in the postpartum period as well.

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