Pregnancy-safe exercise alternatives from a Pilates instructor

It’s important to stay active and move your body while pregnant.
Written by
Christina Traychevska
Reviewed by
Last updated on
October 16, 2023
min read
Pregnancy-Safe Ab Exercises - From a Pilates Instructor | Kin Fertility
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Falling pregnant doesn’t mean you need to give up all of the physical activity you engaged in pre-pregnancy. In fact, it’s important to stay active and move your body while pregnant so you can continue to reap the physical and mental benefits of movement. 

Although, if you’re uncertain about what is and isn’t safe, it can make you want to shy away from working out.

This is why our friends at Keep it Cleaner designed KICBUMP — an exercise program designed to cater to both prenatal and postnatal parents and teach you how to approach exercise, no matter what part of the journey you’re in.

With this in mind, KIC’s Pilates instructor and fellow mumma, Christina Traychevska, has answered some of the most common questions related to pregnancy-safe exercises. Let’s dive in!

Dos and don’ts for movement during pregnancy

During the first trimester, there isn’t really anything that you need to avoid when it comes to exercising.

So, if you’re feeling well and have the energy, keep going! The most up-to-date guidelines recommend avoiding lying flat on your back from 12 weeks onwards and avoid holding isometric contractions for an extended period.

For example, if you’re doing a plant, squat or tree pose, only hold these for a short time or engage in continued movement versus long periods in one position. Otherwise, if you’re not experiencing any complications in pregnancy, the majority of exercises are considered safe or only need slight modifications. 

Abdominal exercises during pregnancy

While ab exercises are generally safe before you reach 20 weeks of pregnancy, after this point, you’ll need to say goodbye to any sort of exercises that put a strain on your abdominal muscles.

Once you’ve developed a small baby bump, it’s best to avoid sit-ups and the like as this can cause your ab muscles to stretch and in some cases, separate (this is known as abdominal separation), which can be pretty uncomfortable and lead to reduced strength in your core.

Here are a few of my favourite pregnancy-safe swaps:

  • Swap bicycle crunches or criss cross for Standing Bicycle crunches — pull your opposite knee to opposite elbow in a standing position.
  • Swap single leg extensions or leg raises with standing knee pulls — lifting one knee as high as you can.
  • Hold onto a bench or chair during lunges or squats to support your body.
  • Single leg work can become uncomfortable, so consider trying squats instead. Add in weights or pop your hands behind your head for an extra challenge. 

Feeling nervous to workout while pregnant

It can be difficult to know your limits when your body is changing rapidly and things that you used to be able to do no longer feel good. But, no one knows your individual body like you do, so try to have confidence in your capacity to adapt and be sure to modify exercises when your body needs it. 

There is an incredible amount of evidence that shows how important exercise is during pregnancy, for both your mind and body, so when you feel like moving, try to honour that as best you can. 

Keep in mind that movement can be as simple as going for a walk or doing some push ups on a bench at the park — it doesn’t have to be a full on sweat session! Try your best not to overthink it.

Dealing with guilt related to exercise

Towards the end of my pregnancy I could not find any desire to move. My body felt tired and I had some serious pelvic girdle pain.

I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk more than a few hundred metres without having to stop and sit. I felt like I should have been able to move the same as always and that put so much unnecessary pressure on my mind and soul.

I think it comes back to trusting your body and trusting the process of pregnancy. We have been growing and birthing babies since the beginning of time and so it’s only natural that our bodies have developed ways of protecting and preparing themselves for birth and the fourth trimester.

I can’t erase the guilt for you, but I can tell you that rest is just as valuable as exercise.

It can be so challenging, especially with social media and the constant comparisons we draw between ourselves and others who are growing humans, to slow down and surrender to what our bodies are asking of us.

However, I believe there is significant value in tuning out the noise and giving yourself permission to follow your body’s instinct to slow down and rest.

KIC workouts to try

The best kind of movement is the kind you enjoy and pregnancy doesn’t have to change that — especially in the first 16 weeks. In the early days, if you’re feeling up to it, the majority of KIC’s workouts are safe for you to do. 

Once you get a little further into your pregnancy, you’ll need to start making a few modifications — for example, exercises that involve lying on your stomach, or if you’re over 12 weeks, flat on your back. You might also find that you need to slow things down a little, which is OK! 

When it comes to KIC workouts, Brooke’s Booty Band Burn, which is a low-impact HIIT session, might suit your changing body as it doesn’t require too many modifications.

Britt’s Bi Bi Arms doesn’t need a lot of adjustments either and allows you to engage in some strength training. Try to remember that no one knows your body better than you, so it’s important to go with how you’re feeling and move your body in a way that feels good to you. 

If you are pregnant be sure to seek medical advice and gain clearance from your doctor before starting the KICBUMP program. 

For workouts, exercise tips and healthy recipes, head over to our friends at KIC.

Image credit: Getty Images


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