All About Third Trimester Exercise

Wait, don’t quit now… third trimester exercise is as important as ever! According to James F. Clapp III M.D., author of Exercising During Pregnancy, women that stop exercising mid-late pregnancy do NOT experience any of the benefits of exercise during their labor (easier, shorter labors etc), begin to experience the usual pregnancy related symptoms that exercise helps relieve (back ache, fatigue etc), and don’t return to pre-pregnancy weight as fast.

Bottom Line…if you stop now, you’re no better off than those that didn’t exercise at all! There’s some motivation for you! So, as long as you’re not at risk for pre-term labor and you are having a healthy pregnancy, drive on with your third trimester exercise!

Click here for more on the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and see what you will miss out on if you give up on me now.

Third Trimester Exercise Guidelines

  • Keeping moving for 30 minutes most days of the week but back down your structured exercise to 3-4 days a week if you’re feeling drained.
  • Cardio…you can keep this up right until the day you deliver! Your belly might need some support…try the belly band. Oh, your chest might need some extra support too…I wore two sports bras.
  • Also, decrease your intensity by about another 10-20%. Again, an easy way to track your intensity is to use the rpe scale. Continue at about a 5...conversation should require some effort. Remember, your 5 now is different from your pre-pregnancy 5! Listen to your body. If you feel light-headed or dizzy back it off a little. What is RPE?
  • Strength training…don’t stop! However, your joints are vulnerable at this stage (thanks to relaxin) so rely more on lighter weights (15 lbs or less) and more reps (12-15 reps). Your balance might be starting to go (thanks to that big belly), so sitting down while lifting is always a good option. More on the amount of weight and number of reps you should do.
  • Take the plunge! Swimming was my favorite third trimester exercise. The water takes the stress off your joints. You can run in water, tread water, do leg extensions and leg curls while holding on the side, and, of course, swim laps. That belly makes you very boyant, so you will feel like and Olympic swimmer. Enjoy it while you can, now I just sink to the bottom!
  • If you haven’t already, check out a pregnancy yoga or pilates class. It’s a great way to meet other moms and talk about your late night viewings of A Baby Story…sleeping is almost impossible at this point.
  • Abs…don’t quit now! Abdominal strength is so important when it comes to supporting that belly bump and preventing back pain. They also help guard against those dreaded leaks that might occur when you laugh or sneeze by reducing the stress on your pelvic floor. They will also come in handy when it is time to push during labor.
    • ACOG recommends that you avoid crunches on your back after 20 weeks. However, according to Clapp (and numerous articles I have read in Shape, Fit Pregnancy, American Baby, etc), performing exercises in the supine position (on your back) for a short amount of time in not likely to harm the baby.

    • Even Bruce K. Young, co-auther of Miscarriages, Medicine and Miracles (Bantam,2008) believes “you would feel uncomfortable long before your blood flow (to the uterus) was compromised” (American Baby, July 08).

  • The key to your third trimester exercise is to listen to your body…if you become uncomfortable or light-headed, switch to your side (I will post some ab exercises you can do on your side soon!)You can accomplish just as much with standing pelvic tilts and crunches that you do on your side if you don't feel comfortable on your back.

More on abdominal exercises

Don't Forget

Always warm up and cool down for 5-10 minutes at low resistance (3-4 rpe). This is very important when it comes to avoiding joint injuries…the laxity in our connective tissues that is present during pregnancy is to blame.

Also, always consult with your doc before starting a workout plan. If you have a history of miscarriages, you might want to avoid high intensity exercise. There just isn’t enough research yet. Talk to your doctor to find a workout plan that fits your situation. Swimming is always a good option!

Bottom Line

If you are a healthy mom-to-be with a normal pregnancy, have at it! This truly is the secret to counteracting that oh so dreaded postpartum weight gain.

More Interesting Pages

Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy
First and Second Trimester Exercise
Exercise After Pregnancy
Warning Signs…Know when to stop!
What Does RPE Mean?
Pregnancy Diet Fit 2 Deliver
Tips and Tricks to help with Morning Sickness
Foods to Avoid during pregnancy

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