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4 things every expecting mumma needs to know about exercise and pregnancy

By Brooke Turner for Active Truth

You’re pregnant? Congratulations! What an exciting yet daunting phase of your life! I hope you have been feeling well so far. 

Exercise during pregnancy is so beneficial to both you & your developing babe both physically and psychologically. Including an improved mental state, maintenance of fitness, strength & health, prevention of potential pregnancy related problems: such as uncontrolled hypertension, gestational diabetes, maintenance of healthy body weight, reduce excess weight gain, assist in labour preparation, promote post natal recovery & so much more!

No doubt if you have been active leading up to your pregnancy you may be feeling a little lost and confused about how to continue moving both safely and effectively with bub on board?

What you see your favourite #insta Mum doing vs what the internet says vs what a GP would recommend – it can get confusing right? Hopefully these 4 things that all expecting Mamas NEED to know about exercising in their first trimester (and apply to the entirety of pregnancy) can help give you a little more confidence and clarity during this special time.

1. Core Body Temperature - Don’t overheat – This is a BIG one! The first trimester carries the highest risk of miscarriage with it. One risk factor for miscarriage is your core body temperature and its affects on your growing babes organ development. If you normally exercise at very high intensity levels (i.e. aerobics classes, CrossFit, HIIT style training) or live in a warmer climate this may be more of a consideration for you. During this time it is important to ensure you remain adequately hydrated, train in an air-conditioned or cool environment, increase your rest periods and dial down your intensity (which leads me to my next point!)

2. Exercise intensity – When pregnant you CAN still train with intensity however it will differ to your pre-pregnancy levels. You will find yourself out of breath and fatiguing quicker than you normally would. I recommend using a combination of heart rate (HR) and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE a scale of 1-10) to monitor the intensity of your sessions. 

Pregnancy is NOT the time to be setting personal bests. The intensity of your sessions should range from mild-moderate, working at an RPE between 4-7 where you can hold a conversation whilst exercising. Use the scale below to help gauge your workouts and ensure you don’t hit above a 7+ too often or for extended periods of time. 

When training, use a combination of the RPE scale – think to yourself: ‘what is my number?’. When it comes to heart rate monitoring this factor really depends on your pre-pregnancy fitness levels. Generally speaking if you use a heart rate monitor you want to keep your heart rate under 150bpm. If you’ve been very active and have a good level of fitness pre pregnancy your max heart rate may be more like 160bpm. A general safe range to exercise at is between 120-160bpm. Monitoring your intensity is so important, particularly in these first few months. Why? - Refer back to point #1.

3. Are you keeping it a secret? Many women wait from anywhere between 8-16 weeks before announcing their news. If you are wanting to keep your pregnancy on the down low yet want to (and should) continue attending your regular group fitness session, CrossFit class, PT or gym, you may not be disclosing this exciting bit of information to your coach/trainer/instructor. 

It is great to tell them as soon as you feel comfortable, but not all Trainers, Coaches or Fitness Instructors are adequately trained to safely modify workouts to suit the pre natal population. This is why it is important for YOU to be equipped with some information and suitable options up your sleeve. My Happy, Healthy Pregnancy – Exercise During Pregnancy eBook is a must have for all expecting Mamas.

In the first trimester I recommend clients:

- Reduce the load (weight)

- Adjust the intensity and

- Increase their rest (basically apply points 1& 2 above — for more detail on each check out my Exercise During Pregnancy eGuide)

4. Hormonal changes - As your body adapts to pregnancy your hormones start adjusting accordingly. The hormone relaxin is at its highest in the first trimester and has significant implications on exercise selection because of its effects on joint stability; it softens ligaments and fibrous tissues meaning more consideration must be given to exercise types due to the increased levels of this hormone. 

Progesterone & oestrogen are other hormones at play during pregnancy and can affect a range of things, including lead to constipation, all of which covered in more detail in my Exercise During Pregnancy eBook.

AND lastly my KEY piece of advice for every expecting Mama when it comes to exercise during pregnancy: You are better off walking away from a workout thinking ‘I could’ve done more’, as opposed to thinking ‘I may have overdone it’. 

Embrace this time in your life when you have a fantastic excuse to take it a little easier, yet still continue moving.

Brooke x 


Brooke Turner is a nutritionist, exercise scientist, personal trainer, speaker, writer and mother of two with over ten years’ experience in the health and fitness industry. Brooke is the founder of Balance Fitness and Nutrition and creator of the STRIVE program and Happy, Healthy Pregnancy eGuides

Her mission is to educate and empower women and those working with women to remain active; both safely sand effectively and nourish their bodies throughout pregnancy and beyond. Brooke believes in striving for a balanced approach to health and fitness and aims to inspire and empower others to see that healthy active living need not be a hindrance but a habit!

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Want to know more about exercise and nutrition during pregnancy?

Access your free 15 Minute At Home Pregnancy Workout here!


Check out Brooke’s complete pre natal eBook - Exercise & Nutrition During Pregnancy & get 15% off by using the code ACTIVE at checkout!

The must-have resource for every expecting Mama! It covers EVERYTHING you need to know about keeping healthy and active during pregnancy, over 150 pages, including:

- 30 pregnancy safe workouts that you can complete at home or the gym
- 30+ nourishing recipes
- Over 60 pregnancy appropriate exercises with a comprehensive exercise glossary complete with images, coaching cues, considerations and suitable modifications
- Exercises sessions ranging from three different levels to suit your pregnancy progression
- Easy reference tables for suitable modifications to help empower women to train safely
- Considerations, physiological changes for each trimester & contraindications to exercise
- The all important pelvic floor & abdominal health
- Weight gain, meeting pregnancy nutrient requirements, beating pregnancy related problems
- and SO much more!

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