1st Trimester Exercise Guidelines

By: Pearl Maalouf BS, FMSC, CPT, CF-L1
Congratulations on your pregnancy! If your goal is to stay as healthy as possible during pregnancy then incorporating exercise is a great way to make sure you and your baby thrive during this miraculous time. If you aren’t pregnant, but are thinking of getting pregnant in the near future, starting an exercise program to build up your strength pre-pregnancy is a great idea.

If you have been an avid or regular exerciser before becoming pregnant more than likely you can continue exercising the same as before. Of course you should check with your doctor first. As your pregnancy progresses you may have some days where your body will let you know that you need to take it easy because of fatigue, nausea, and just general changes that are going on in your body. Although I’m a big advocate of the catchphrase, “I’m Pregnant, not disabled!”, you are going through a lot of changes and it is best to listen to your body and what it’s telling you.

During pregnancy, the ultimate goal with exercising is HEALTH. It’s not to loose weight, build up muscles, or set records. Maintaining your muscle mass, releasing any stress or anxiety, and preparing your body for changes as you progress in your pregnancy are really what should be the goals.


The first trimester is tricky because you could be suffering from fatigue, nasuea/vomiting, decreased appetite, and/or mood swings. When you workout- even if it’s just some light cardio or yoga, you’re getting some really great hormonal benefits which may help relieve any moodiness or exhaustion; you’ll work up an appetite so you’re more likely to eat a bit more after your workout; and hopefully knowing you’re doing something really great for you and your little one will keep any anxiety at bay.

If you have never exercised or haven’t for a long time, as long as your doctor approves that you are clear to exercise you can actually start doing a whole lot! Starting to walk (outdoors or on a treadmill) is a great place to begin. Yoga (except for hot or bikram) is really great to help keep you limber as your belly gets bigger and it can even help prepare you for birth! If you decide to start strength training you don’t have too many limitations in this first trimester but make sure that your personal training is properly trained and informed on prenatal exercise. As you progress there are some movements and positions you will need to avoid so it’s best to have someone qualified working with you! Although you will need professional guidance, strength training is amazing for pregnancy. Not only will you be building up your muscles for the extra weight that you will be carrying around in a couple months, but also for keeping your insulin sensitivity high. Gestational Diabetes is not fun and may develop in the second trimester as hormones in the placenta may block your insulin. For more information on Gestational Diabetes visit this ADA page.

Tips for exercising during your 1st trimester:

  • Aim for 20-60 minutes of exercise everyday (yes, walking and light stretching counts).
  • Aim for at least 3 hours/week of exercise to maximize benefits (being sure to include cardiovascular exercise such as walking, biking, or swimming).
  • Aim for strength resistance exercise 2-4 times/week. (Lightweight exercises, & pilates count)
  • Stay hydrated. Always carry a bottle of water-and track how much water you’re drinking. When you exercise you need to increase your water intake compared to days you don’t exercise-even if you didn’t sweat!
  • Wear layers so you can easily remove outer ones when you get warm.
  • Don’t exercise in hot humid temperatures. Remember, baby can’t sweat to cool itself down so if your internal temperature gets too high it could be dangerous for the baby.
  • Remember, your body is changing so your balance may not be as good.
Pearl Maalouf
Pearl Maalouf

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