Safe exercises during the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy

Mamtaa Joshi         
pregnant woman exercising
           Any doctor will tell you that exercising during pregnancy is a good thing as it makes it more comfortable and your body stronger. But you cannot follow your regular workout plan when pregnant as your body will have several changes. In order to keep up with them, it is best to modify your regime with each trimester. Fitness expert Mamtaa Joshi lists out safe exercises during different stages of pregnancy.
First trimester exercises
Working out during the first trimester presents some challenges – you’re overly tired, unpredictably nauseous, and scared that each move you make will harm the baby. Working out during the first trimester can help increase your energy and minimise many of the discomforting signs during the first stages of pregnancy.
Begin workouts with a warm-up as it will make you ready for your workout and get your muscles ready to work. You can do cardio workout like walking on the treadmill on slow speed or go for a walk outdoors. You can also do light weight training but take rest between the workout and keep yourself hydrated by drinking water. Consult your doctor in case of any discomfort. (Read: The most comprehensive guide to first trimester dos and don’ts you’ll ever need!)
Second trimester exercises
Working out during the second trimester of pregnancy generally feels great! After battling nausea and fatigue during the first trimester, most women feel a surge of energy, stability, and overall fitness – you need to make the most of this energising phase of pregnancy. 
Even though you may feel a burst of energy during this stage of pregnancy, it’s still important to warm up before breaking a sweat. Here are a few exercises you can opt for.
Side raise: Lie on your left side on the floor, with your hips and knees bent at 45 degrees. Keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your right knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Pause, and then return to the starting position. Repeat on other side.
Tummy sucking: Inhale like you have lungs in your stomach. Exhale as you use your abdominal muscles to pull your belly button toward your spine. Hold for 2 or 3 seconds and release. (You should be able to talk while you hold the position.) That’s one rep.
Kegel exercise: Sit comfortably on a chair or bed, squeeze your pelvic floor muscle tightly, and hold for 8 seconds. To feel this muscle, imagine you are trying to stop yourself from peeing. Hold like you have to control peeing.

Sitting cycling:
 Sit on a chair and lift a single leg and do cycling 20 times. Repeat with the other leg.

Squats with a chair: Do simple squats holding a chair so that you cannot lose balance. Hold the back of the chair and your feet apart. Lower yourself by bending the knees while sticking out your bottom and leaning forward at the waist. Squat till your thighs are parallel to the ground and then return to original position. (Read: Second trimester – the most comprehensive guide of dos and don’ts you’ll ever need!)
Third trimester exercises
This phase can be very boring as your body feels heavy and you want to see your baby eagerly. But your body is also tired. This is the time you have to be more energetic because you will need strength for delivery.
There will be so many days during the final weeks of your pregnancy when even shoulder stretches or moving arms and ankle will feel like too much work for your body — and that’s normal. Keep in mind that even a little exercise in the third trimester will help you feel fresh and energetic and do as much as your body allows. 
Butterfly stretch: Sit with your legs outstretched. Bend the right leg and place the right foot as far up on the left thigh as possible. Place the right hand on top of the bent right knee. Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand. While breathing in, gently move the right knee up towards the chest. Breathing out, gently push the knee down and try to touch the floor. The trunk should not move. Movement of leg should be achieved by the exertion of the right arm. Repeat with left leg. Slowly, practise about 10 up and down movements with each leg. Do not strain your body. 
Sleeping abdominal stretch pose: Lie on your back. Interlock fingers of both hands and place hands beneath the head. Bend knees keeping the soles of your feet on the floor. Move head in other direction, repeat on the other side.
Horizontal cycling: Lying down on the mat or bed, you can air cycle with both the legs. 
Side raises: Lying on your side, lift your leg which is upside. Lift up and down, change the side. Repeat on the other side. (Read: What NOT to do during pregnancy – 10 things to avoid!)
While these are safe exercises that you can do during your pregnancy, you need to keep basic precautions in mind. 
  • Let your doctor know about your workout plan.
  • Don’t lie on your stomach.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Don’t do any jumping exercises.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Do not follow anything which is uncomfortable.
  • Consult the doctor if you feel even a little uncomfortable.
Mamtaa Joshi is a fitness expert and the founder of The Orange Tree Studio – a fitness assessment and consultation salon. She has trained at the renowned Reebok Fitness Academy and conducted various fitness classes at Talwalkars, Expressions Dance Studio as well as the Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba. She has over 10 years of experience in the field. She firmly believes that to improve your quality of life, you must be fit inside out. She tries to help her clients get over their mental blocks by bringing consistency and discipline in their routine.

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From Mayo Clinic:
Slide show: Pregnancy exercises 1
Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing a wall pushup
PreviousNext1 of 10Interested in pregnancy exercises? Good for you! Pregnancy exercises can help you improve your core strength, tone your muscles and prepare for labor.
Start your pregnancy exercises with wall pushups, which work the pectoral muscles in the front of your chest wall and the triceps muscles in the back of your upper arm. Stand up facing a wall. Then lean against the wall with your hands. Keep your knees comfortably apart. Place your hands on the wall at the level of your shoulders, slightly greater than shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest until your chin reaches the wall. Remember to keep your back straight. Then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 15 repetitions.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing squats with a fitness ball
PreviousNext2 of 10Squatting during labor — even for short amounts of time — helps open your pelvic outlet and allows more room for your baby to descend. Practicing squats now will make it easier to squat during labor. Try squats with a fitness ball.
Stand up straight with a fitness ball behind your back and against the wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slide down the wall until your knees reach a 90-degree angle, being careful to keep your heels flat on the floor. If you can't bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, simply go as low as you can — then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.
 Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing leg lifts
PreviousNext3 of 10To strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, try leg lifts. Start on your hands and knees, keeping your arms straight and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Lift your right knee, then straighten your leg behind you — ending with the raised leg parallel to the floor. Repeat on the other side. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions on both sides.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing step-up exercise
PreviousNext4 of 10To do a step-up, you'll need a small step stool — or you can stand in front of the stairs. Position yourself near a wall or railing for extra balance or support, if needed. Pushing primarily through your lead foot, lift your body up onto the step. Then step backward to the starting position. Alternate your lead foot each time you step up.
When you're doing step-ups, remember to keep your back straight and plant your foot entirely on the step. Do as many repetitions as you can, depending on your fitness level. Stop when you're fatigued or your form begins to suffer.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing side plank
PreviousNext5 of 10The side plank challenges your stability and works the muscles along the side of your body.
To do the side plank, lie on your left side and raise yourself onto your left forearm. Place your left shoulder directly above your left elbow, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees in alignment. Rest your right arm along the side of your body. Hold for several seconds, then lower yourself to the floor. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Repeat on the other side
Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing a v-sit supported by a balance trainer
PreviousNext6 of 10You can do various core exercises with a Bosu Balance Trainer or similar equipment. Start with a supported v-sit.
Sit on the floor, with your back leaning against the trainer, your feet flat on the floor and your arms extended straight in front of you. Lift your right foot off the floor, until your right leg is parallel with the floor. Hold for several seconds, then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Repeat with your left leg.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing v-sit seated on a Bosu Balance Trainer
PreviousNext7 of 10You can also do the v-sit exercise sitting on top of a Bosu Balance Trainer or similar equipment.
Sit up straight on the trainer, with your feet flat on the floor and your arms extended straight in front of you. Lean backward until you feel your abdominal muscles contract. Hold for several seconds, then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing a one-leg v-sit with a Bosu Balance Trainer
PreviousNext8 of 10When you're comfortable with the v-sit, try the one-leg v-sit. Sit up straight on the trainer, with your feet flat on the floor and your arms extended straight in front of you. Lift your right foot off the floor, then lean backward until you feel your abdominal muscles contract. Hold for several seconds, then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Repeat with your left leg.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing seated row with resistance tubing
PreviousNext9 of 10You can also do various pregnancy exercises with resistance tubing and a fitness ball.
To target the muscles in your upper back, try a seated row. Sit up straight on a fitness ball or a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart and your feet flat on the floor. Place the resistance tubing under the arch of each foot. Holding on to the tubing handles with your palms facing in, pull the tubing straight back with your elbows — as if you were rowing. You'll feel as if your shoulder blades are coming together. Then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 15 repetitions.

Pregnancy exercises — pregnant woman practicing seated dead lift with resistance tubing
PreviousNext10 of 10If you'd like to try another exercise with resistance tubing, consider the seated dead lift. This exercise targets the muscles in your lower back.
Sit up straight on a fitness ball or in a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart and your feet flat on the floor. Place the resistance tubing under the arch of each foot. Holding on to the tubing handles or to the tubing itself with your palms facing in, lean forward from your hips — bringing your torso toward your thighs. Then return to the starting position. Gradually work up to 15 repetitions.
To make the exercise more challenging, wrap the tubing around your hands. This provides greater resistance.