Pregnant woman doing yoga.

9 Biggest Pregnancy Exercise Mistakes

As an expectant mother, it’s important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle for both you and your growing baby. Yet the question of exercise can result in some confusion. Although each woman is different, exercise during pregnancy is usually considered safe and provides several associated benefits, from reducing the risk of gestational diabetes to improving mood and sleep quality. However, navigating the world of prenatal exercise can be confusing, with many myths and misconceptions. To help ensure that you’re exercising safely—after getting cleared by your doctor—consider some of the following pregnancy exercise mistakes and how to avoid them.


The Biggest Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

Although you shouldn’t start training for a marathon or a bodybuilding competition during pregnancy, exercise is still important. Moving your body has numerous benefits for both you and your developing baby. For example, regular activity can help improve both physical and mental health, reduce pregnancy aches and pains, and lower the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm labor. It can also help promote healthy weight gain, improve sleep, boost your energy levels, and elevate your mood. Plus, when you exercise during pregnancy, you’ll prepare your body for the demands of labor, delivery, and upcoming parenthood. With that being said, it’s essential that you consult with your doctor prior to starting any exercise regimen to ensure that it’s safe.


Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?

Many women wonder whether or not it’s okay to exercise during their pregnancy. Generally speaking, yes. . . it is safe to work out during pregnancy. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s true for every woman. Women who have low-risk pregnancies, have been cleared by their doctor, and don’t partake in anything too extreme shouldn’t have anything to worry about during physical activity. Your doctor can help you determine what types and intensity levels are safe and appropriate for your needs. Some women may need to make modifications or avoid certain exercises due to pregnancy complications or other health conditions.


Who Should Limit Exercising During Pregnancy?

There are some women who may be advised to take it easy during their pregnancy and avoid or limit physical activity. This includes women with:

  • Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or asthma

  • Pregnancy-related conditions, such as threatened miscarriage, vaginal bleeding, or cervical weakness


In general, if you’ve been advised by your doctor or a healthcare professional to limit physical activity during pregnancy, it’s important to follow their advice. In doing so, you’ll help protect your baby’s development and reduce the risk of potentially avoidable complications.

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Common Pregnancy Exercise Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

There are several different ways to move your body and get exercise. This level of variety allows you to create a diverse regimen that keeps you motivated and excited. However, even if you have good intentions, people make mistakes. That’s okay, but there are some that really need to be avoided—especially when exercising during pregnancy.


1. Neglecting to Warm Up and Cool Down Properly

Warming up and cooling down are important components of an exercise routine, as they help prepare your body for physical activity and aid in recovery. However, many people skip these integral steps. Warming up helps prepare your body and mind for the workout ahead, thus reducing the risk of injury and even enhancing performance. Cooling down helps gradually decrease your heart rate and reduces future muscle stiffness. Aim to spend about 10 minutes warming up before your exercise using dynamic stretches, and 10 minutes cooling down afterwards with static stretching.


2. Not Listening to Your Body

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just beginning your exercise journey, it’s important to listen to your body. If you feel like you’re pushing yourself too hard, slow down, lower the weight, and take some time to breathe. You don’t want to overdo it, as this can have negative side effects. Listening to your body may mean not working out exactly like you did before you were pregnant. The best approach is to modify your exercises as your baby grows to maximize safety and minimize the risk of injury.


3. Skipping Functional Training

When most people think of exercising, they picture cardio machines, workout classes, or weightlifting. While these are all good, functional training should also be incorporated. It’s a type of exercise that focuses on training movements, rather than individual muscles. Functional training exercises—squats, walking lunges, push-ups, kettlebell workouts, etc.—can help you improve balance, stability, and mobility, lower your risk of injury, and prepare your body for everyday life.


4. Only Focusing on Cardio

Cardio helps improve your aerobic health and weight management, but it shouldn’t be the only focus of exercising. Incorporating strength training can help your body prepare for the physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth. It can help reduce the risk of injury and improve overall stability and strength. Aim to get about 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity per week, with light to moderate weights three to four times a week.


5. Skipping Pelvic Floor Day

Your pregnancy exercise regimen should also include plenty of pelvic floor workouts, like Kegels. They help strengthen the pelvic floor muscle, which supports your growing uterus and reduces the risk of urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises also help aid in the delivery process, reduce the risk of postpartum complications, and may result in a quicker recovery after delivery. 


6. Not Activating the Core Properly

Another common pregnancy exercise mistake is not activating your core properly. Regardless of what exercise you’re doing, activating your core muscles can help support your spine and pelvic bone, reduce the risk of injury, and keeps your uterus protected during your workouts. To activate the core, take a deep breath and after the inhale, clench abdominal muscles as you continue to breathe. You should feel your ab muscles constrict.


7. Doing Too Many Core Exercises

Activating your core is important, but so is being mindful of how many ab exercises you’re adding to your regimen. You shouldn’t be working on your six-pack during pregnancy. Your growing uterus will eventually put excess pressure on the abdominal muscles, so they need to be able to move a bit. Doing too many core exercises can contribute to diastasis recti, which is when the ab muscles are visibly separated down the middle of your belly. Stick to functional exercises that incorporate your core rather than isolating and overtraining abdominal muscles.


8. Choosing the Wrong Exercises

Another common mistake is choosing the wrong exercises for your body type or trimester. During the first trimester, you can usually do many more exercises as you still have a wide range of motion. However, as you progress into the third trimester, it’s recommended to avoid any heavy lifting and stick to walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga. Remember to always listen to your body and don’t overexert yourself.


9. Not Drinking Enough Water

Staying hydrated is important throughout your pregnancy, regardless of if you’re exercising or not. However, when you start to sweat, you need to be diligent about your water intake. Drinking enough water helps you maintain a healthy fluid balance to support your growing baby. Hydration is especially important for maintaining amniotic fluid levels. It also prevents dehydration and reduces the risk of pregnancy-related complications. Aim to drink about 65 to 96 ounces of water every day. If you exercise strenuously, you may need to drink more than 96 ounces to replace fluids lost through sweat.

To help you find the best exercises for your body during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. Always take the time to discuss your concerns, any limitations you may have, and any symptoms that may warrant reduced exercise. You can also ask about the benefits of incorporating certain exercises to help you prepare for labor.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, always seek approval from your doctor before attempting any exercises. You may need to make modifications or work with a certified personal trainer to ensure your safety and the safety of your baby, especially if you have had a premature birth or are in a geriatric pregnancy.

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