Is it safe to exercise in the third trimester?

If your pregnancy is normal and you're healthy, it's generally safe to exercise in your third trimester.
If your pregnancy is normal and you’re healthy, it’s generally safe to exercise in your third trimester.

Your body goes through dramatic changes in your third trimester of pregnancy. You’re feeling more tired, you have more aches and pains. The good news is that exercise can help relieve some of your third trimester discomfort.

If your pregnancy is normal and you’re healthy, it’s generally safe to exercise in your third trimester. It’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any new fitness program.

Regular exercise can benefit you in many ways:

It’s recommended that pregnant women do about 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or activity. This is about 30 minutes per day, five days a week.

There is a small number of pregnant women who shouldn’t exercise. Women who have certain health conditions or pregnancy complications should talk to their doctor before doing any exercise:

  • Being pregnant with twins or more, especially if you’re at a higher risk for preterm labor
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy. This can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy.
  • Preterm labor. This is when labor begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • Severe anemia
  • Cerclage or cervical stitch. This is a procedure to close your cervix.

What are safe pregnancy third trimester exercises?

Walking

Walking is a safe third trimester exercise that you can do anywhere. No equipment needed, just a good pair of shoes. For motivation, walk with friends and family.

Water Workouts

Swimming and water workouts like aqua aerobics and water walking are great pregnancy third trimester exercises. Your buoyancy in the water helps to take pressure off your back and pelvis. This may help to reduce any aches and pains. 

Modified Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and pilates are activities that focus on core strength. This may help you during labor and recovery.

These pregnancy third trimester exercises may also improve anxiety or depression. A study found that pregnant women who were depressed and did tai chi or yoga had mood improvements, and less stress and pain.

Prenatal yoga or pilates classes are tailored to pregnant women using modified poses. Avoid poses that have you lying on your back for long periods or have you standing still for long.

At-Home Workouts

There are many easy exercises that you can do at home. Here are a few:

Cat/Cow. On all fours, round your back and tuck your chin in. Slowly move into a gentle arch like a cat. Repeat 8 to 10 times. This is a good stretch for your spine.

Kegel exercises. Contract your pelvic floor muscles for 3 to 5 seconds. Release for a few seconds. Repeat 10 to 20 times several times a day.

Rear Flys. Hold light weights or a resistance band. Open your arms up and away from each other. Keep your elbows bent and wrists in neutral. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 3 sets.

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Exercises to avoid during pregnancy

Don’t do these activities when you’re pregnant:

  • Contact sports like hockey, soccer, and basketball
  • Activities with a high risk of falling like horseback riding, skiing, surfing, off-road cycling
  • “Hot yoga” or “hot pilates.” This may cause you to become overheated.
  • Skydiving
  • Scuba diving

Is it too late to start exercising in the third trimester?

It’s not too late to start exercising during your third trimester. Begin with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Gradually add more minutes until you reach 30 minutes. Walking is a good exercise to start with.

Precautions to take during pregnancy third trimester exercises

  • Listen to your body when exercising. If something doesn't feel right, take a break or reduce the intensity of the exercise. 
  • Hydrate. Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Wear a sports bra that will support your breasts properly.
  • A belly support band may help reduce discomfort.
  • Don’t get overheated when exercising. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Don’t exercise when it’s too hot or humid.
  • In your third trimester, try not to stand still or lie flat on your back for long. Standing still can cause blood to pool in your feet and legs. Lying on your back means that your uterus presses on a vein that returns blood to your heart.

Exercise warning signs during pregnancy

If you have any of these signs, stop exercising and call your doctor:

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Medically Reviewed on 9/2/2021
References
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Exercise During Pregnancy."

The American Council on Exercise: "Training the Prenatal Client: Specific Considerations and Exercises for Late-term Pregnancy."

Cedars-Sinai: "Exercise During Pregnancy: What's Safe?"

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: "Tai chi/yoga reduces prenatal depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances."

Office on Women’s Health: "Stages of Pregnancy."

U.S. Masters Swimming: "Swimming During Pregnancy."

UTSouthwestern Medical Center: "You can exercise while pregnant – start now!"