Peloton's Ultimate Guide to Working Out During Pregnancy
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
By Tiffany Ayuda•
Pregnancy is one of the most transformative periods in your life, and there’s no better time to focus on staying strong and maintaining good health. Although some people may see pregnancy as a time to kick your heels up (there’s a time and place for this, too), there are actually many reasons you should include more movement.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
“Regular exercise during pregnancy can help reduce excessive weight gain during pregnancy, increase energy and decrease fatigue, reduce back pain, strengthen your heart and overall fitness, and help with postpartum weight management, in addition to setting up good routine habits. It may also help reduce the chance of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia,” says Jennifer Butt, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and founder of Upper East Side OB-GYN.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant people get a least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. This falls in line with the physical guidelines for Americans. And if you were already working out regularly before your pregnancy, you can continue to follow your routine as long as your ob-gyn has given you the OK.
That said, there are a few instances when you should avoid exercise during pregnancy. Pregnant people who have certain health conditions, like short cervix, placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix), preterm labor, having a cerclage (stiched cervix), as well as certain heart and lung diseases, should avoid working out, Dr. Butt says.
Otherwise, exercise during pregnancy is pretty much free game when done safely.
“It’s such a good thing to stay active and be in your body. For me at least, if I wasn’t tuning into my body and moving in a way that felt appropriate and good, it was really easy to feel disconnected because there’s so much going on that’s out of your control,” says Anna Greenberg, a Peloton yoga and meditation instructor, who teaches prenatal classes. “The more connected you stay to your body, the more agency you have over your experience.”
On a physical level, working out can also help prime your body for labor and delivery and then in the postpartum period. “Labor and delivery are like a marathon and a huge physical undertaking. It’s really beneficial to be strong. It will also help with your recovery from giving birth—however you give birth. Being in good physical shape helped with my recovery,” says Anna, who shares she had a C-section.
Should You Keep Your Regular Workout Routine During Pregnancy?
You should always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new workout routine or continuing with one during pregnancy.
Even if you do end up sticking to your current routine or taking classes on your own, it’s great to add prenatal and postnatal classes in addition to what you’re doing so you can stay confident and safe.
To help you stay safe on your exercise journey, we’re answering some of the most common questions related to pregnancy and exercise. Keep these in mind as you begin or continue a workout routine.
Can You Run When Pregnant?
Running is generally safe to do while pregnant, but you might consider working with a prenatal running coach who can help you make the right adjustments to your routine as you progress in your pregnancy.
“Listen to your body and know that your body is doing a massive job at all times while you’re pregnant, so give yourself grace if something feels like a lot or if you were doing something before that doesn’t feel right now. You’re doing so much, so don’t be discouraged,” Anna says.
If you are new to running, take things slow and building up your routine with care. That might mean that you walk in between running efforts or scale things back to a jog. People who were running or very active before pregnancy can continue their routines, but you should stop exercising if something feels off.
“If you feel dizzy or faint, or are having labor or preterm labor signs, such as vaginal bleeding, leaking of fluid, or contractions or cramping, then you should stop and consult your physician,” Dr. Butt says.
Is Indoor Cycling Safe While Pregnant?
Due to its low-impact nature, indoor cycling is a great way to get moderate-intensity cardio exercise during pregnancy while reducing the risk of falls and injury. (In fact, you may have seen several of Peloton’s cycling instructors teach and ride through most of their pregnancies—there are many indoor cycling classes that are a perfect fit for pregnant people.) If you were an intermediate or advanced cyclist pre-pregnancy, you may be able to continue doing the same workouts, Anna says.
“Everyone is unique, so it depends on what your individual fitness level is and where you feel comfortable,” she says. “You can take the knowledge you have [if you’ve been doing cycling workouts] and dial things back a little bit or go low-impact if you need to. It’s really about tuning into your body and adjusting your level of intensity. Make sure you stay nourished and hydrated, and if you start to feel light-headed or off, really respect that and scale back.”
Can You Lift Weights While Pregnant?
Strength training is one of the best forms of exercise you can do during pregnancy because it fortifies the muscles around your joints. This is especially important because, during pregnancy, your body produces more of the hormone relaxin, which creates looseness in your joints and ligaments to allow for your baby bump to grow, Anna says.
In terms of how heavy you can lift, this depends on your individual fitness level, she says. “Personally, I needed to lower the weight I lifted in my third trimester, but everyone is different. Because you are carrying extra weight and doing a lot physically, tending to moderation is good. And if you’re unsure, check in with a professional,” Anna says.
With strength training, hold off on exercises that may put you off balance and return to them after pregnancy. Having a stable base of support is important when lifting weights. Moves like squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses, are good exercises to help you maintain muscle mass and strength throughout pregnancy.
Can You Do Pilates While Pregnant?
Pilates is an excellent way to do core exercises and breathwork during pregnancy. However, you want to avoid exercises that have you lying on your back at 20 weeks or more, such as variations of crunches, V-ups, and hollow holds. This is because lying on your back puts pressure on the vena cava, which is the vein that transports blood from your heart to the baby, Anna says.
“Exercises that require you to be on your back for a long period of time should be avoided during the mid-second trimester and after. Core exercises are totally OK to do, but as your belly gets bigger, you may need to do some modifications to your routine,” Dr. Butt says.
Instead, you can use a wedge or bolster so you can lie down on an incline and feel supported. You can also do many Pilates exercises lying down on your side. Another type of Pilates exercise you want to avoid is moves with closed twists, which compress your abdominal area. Focus on doing open twists or twists that are above the bra line and open up your back, Anna says.
Whether you’re new to Pilates or have been taking classes, Anna recommends taking a prenatal class so you’re aware of the proper modifications for exercises. She also advises using Pilates props, such as bolsters, balls, and blocks, to help you feel more supported.
Planks and other plank variations, like mountain climbers and push-ups, are fine to do during the first trimester, but as your bump grows, you may want to modify, like doing an incline plank on a couch, box, or wall. As you near your due date, your rectus abdominis (front ab muscle) stretches and becomes weaker, and doing planks puts additional pressure on it. This can lead to ab separation, or diastasis recti.
Can You Do Yoga While Pregnant?
Many forms of yoga, including prenatal yoga, are safe to do throughout pregnancy. But the type of yoga that is absolutely off-limits is hot yoga because of the high risk of dehydration and overheating.
The types of yoga poses you want to avoid are closed twists, where you’re crossing your midline and turning your belly, Anna says.
“You can twist open as much as you want. For example, with a seated spinal twist, you can open as much as you want to the side. You can twist close, but keep the twist above the bra line and keep your hips and belly pointing forward, so the twist is more on the upper body,” Anna explains.
You also want to generally avoid poses that involve arm balances, lying down on your belly (prone), hopping and jumping, and inversions. Unless you have a strong practice for inversions and feel like doing them, you’ll want to pass on headstands and handstands because there’s a risk of falling. Your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, so it may become harder to balance. If you want to do headstands and feel very confident in them, make sure to do them by a wall for more support, Anna says.
Arm balances also involve a lot of core engagement, which is an area you definitely want to maintain strength in, but you want to avoid hardening and compressing the abdominal area and instead allow for more space, Anna says.
In addition, pregnant people want to avoid lying flat on their back (supine) when they’re 20 weeks or more. So when you’re doing Savasana, for example, you want to lie down on your left side instead of on your back. If you aren’t in your third trimester, you can also lie on an incline, using a bolster, wedge, or a couple of stacked thick blankets.
But for pregnant people in their third trimester, avoid the incline position and lie on your side. It’s believed that lying on an incline encourages the baby into an occiput posterior position, where the baby is head down but is facing the mother’s front instead of her back, which isn’t ideal for birth, Anna says.
What Exercises to Avoid While Pregnant
Most exercises are fine to do during pregnancy as long as you’ve cleared them with your doctor and are doing modifications to accommodate the changes in your body. As mentioned, you generally want to avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back during your mid-second trimester and beyond, planks and their variations, closed twists, moves where you’re lying down on your belly, workouts in heated rooms, and exercises that test the boundaries of your balance.
“You want to avoid any type of contact sports or exercises where there is a risk of falling and injuring yourself, such as horseback riding, downhill skiing, or gymnastics. Hot yoga and scuba diving should be avoided,” Dr. Butt says.
Safety Tips for Exercising While Pregnant
The best thing you can do to stay safe while exercising during pregnancy is to listen to your body. Scale back if you need to and take longer breaks in between sets of exercises. If you feel light-headed, dizzy, very short of breath, or are experiencing vaginal bleeding, leaking of fluid, cramping, or contractions, stop what you’re doing and reach out to your doctor.
“It's very important to stay well-hydrated before, during, and after exercising. This is particularly important in pregnant women. Try not to overheat and wear loose-fitting and breathable clothing,” Dr. Butt says.
What’s a Safe Heart Rate During Exercise While Pregnant?
There isn’t a target heart rate you should aim to have while exercising during pregnancy. According to ACOG, moderate-intensity exercise is ideal. At this intensity, you should be able to maintain a conversation during exercise. That said, high-intensity exercise isn’t necessarily off the table.
“There are limited studies, but high-intensity exercises have been found to be safe for most healthy women. Some studies have showed that there was an increase in blood flow to the baby after ‘vigorous’ aerobic exercise in the third trimester,” Dr. Butt says.
However, if you’re doing high-intensity exercise and feel short of breath, dizzy, or have heart palpitations or chest pain, stop exercising immediately.
“Of course, exercising will cause one to be short of breath but if one is so short of breath that they can’t catch their breath during a rest period or are feeling unwell, it’s a sign to stop. Maternal perceived exertion is generally a good indicator of exercise intensity,” Dr. Butt says. “The talk test is also a good gauge of whether someone is overexerting themselves or not—if someone can maintain a conversation during exercise, they are not overexerting themselves.”
This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.