6 Best Third Trimester Exercises: What’s Safe and Unsafe

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Whether you’re continuing or starting an exercise routine in the third trimester, it can be difficult to know what’s safe.

You might find some exercises too slow while finding others too challenging for your growing belly. As your body changes, so should your physical activity. It’s important to find movements that are comfortable and adaptable during the later stages of pregnancy.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to exercise safely during the third trimester and 6 best exercises to try.

Third Trimester Exercise: Is it Safe?

Exercise during pregnancy is safe and is typically recommended for most people, even in the third trimester. However, in some cases, like some high-risk pregnancies, exercise is not recommended. A doctor may recommend against certain types of exercise or exercise in general.

In most cases, as long as you work at a moderate intensity and aren’t exerting yourself, you’re safe! Here’s a general rule: If you’re breathing so hard that you can’t speak, you’re probably working too hard during pregnancy. While you can challenge yourself, this is not the time to overwork yourself!

“Moderate intensity” can look different to everyone depending on their physical fitness. Someone who runs every day will likely be safe to keep running during pregnancy. But for someone who doesn’t exercise at all, a long run could be overkill during the third trimester. Always pay attention to how you feel and consider what pace is comfortable and safe for you.

If exercise is safe for your pregnancy, there are still some precautions to take. You should avoid these types of exercise during any trimester.

  • Hot yoga or hot pilates. Hot temperatures are not recommended during pregnancy, especially while you’re exercising.
  • Lying down for extended periods. Laying on your back for long periods can compress a major blood vessel, which can restrict blood flow to your fetus. This is especially a concern in the third trimester.
  • Risky sports. Although soccer and volleyball may not seem like risky sports, you may accidentally get hit by the ball, which is best avoided during pregnancy. Sports that pose a falling risk, like horseback riding and skiing can also be dangerous.

Benefits of Exercise During the Third Trimester

Not only is exercise usually safe during the third trimester, but there are a variety of benefits.

Improves back pain

As your baby belly grows, the added weight can put pressure on your back muscles, causing pain. One way to reduce pain is by exercising. Stretching your back and strengthening those muscles can soothe aches.

Helps fatigue

Fatigue is a common pregnancy symptom, especially during the third trimester when you’re pulling the weight of another human being! Along with the physical changes, the mental fatigue of preparing for a baby can take a toll too. Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercising can give you energy, making it easier to get through the day.

Helps constipation

In the third trimester, your heavy uterus increases the pressure on your bowels. This can cause straining during bowel movements or constipation. Exercise can help relieve constipation and make it easier for you to pass stools, which can also reduce the chances of getting hemorrhoids during pregnancy.

Reduces swelling

Another common pregnancy symptom is swelling. Moving your body improves your blood flow and circulation, which can help reduce swelling in the ankles and feet.

Can make labor easier

Exercise makes your body stronger, which can make it easier to get through the active or “pushing” stage of labor.

Although more research is needed, studies show that aerobics may shorten labor, reduce pain, improve placenta function and may be linked to improved outcomes.

Exercises that strengthen the muscles used in labor can be particularly helpful. These include squats, pelvic tilt raises, butterfly stretches and Kegels.

For more information on the benefits of exercise on labor, and which exercises may be most effective, read 7 Exercises to Make Labor Easier and Less Painful.

Improves mental health

Perhaps one of the best reasons to exercise during the third trimester is to improve your mental health. Pregnancy anxiety and depression can take a toll on your emotions and physical activity may help counteract that.

A 2024 study found that a combination of exercise and CBT significantly reduced the anxiety level during pregnancy. Another recent study concluded that physical activity may prevent and reduce prenatal anxiety symptoms.

Precautions for Third Trimester Exercise

Now that you know about the benefits of third trimester exercise, you should know about some of the specific precautions to take during this time.

Below are some tips on safely exercising during the third trimester.

  • Consider the bump. Exercises that may have been comfortable in the first trimester may be difficult as you reach the later stages of pregnancy. Consider how your baby bump impacts your desired exercise and modify moves that are uncomfortable or unsafe.
  • Stay hydrated. Always keep a water bottle by your side while exercising. One of the biggest precautions to watch out for while exercising during pregnancy is dehydration.
  • Don’t challenge your balance. Challenging your balance while holding onto a chair or wall may be okay, but balancing without anything to hold onto is dangerous in the third trimester. With a big belly, your center of gravity has shifted, which can pose additional challenges and create falling risks.
  • Control the temperature. Try to exercise in places where the temperature is controlled. Exercising outside on a hot day can pose overheating risks.

You should also know when to stop exercising. If you experience any of the following while exercising, you should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Painful uterus contractions
  • Pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

6 Best Third Trimester Exercises

Before beginning any new exercise, make sure to talk to your doctor about which types of physical activity are safe for your pregnancy. During the third trimester, choose exercises that are tailored to your energy level and baby belly.

Yoga

Yoga is a great way to get exercise without going overboard. Although many moves aren’t doable in the third trimester, yoga can provide a gentle stretch that also strengthens the body over time. Search for prenatal classes online or in person.

Pilates

If yoga is too slow paced, pilates is a good alternative. It can provide a challenge during pregnancy that’s still achievable. Make sure you follow a routine that’s pregnancy-specific and doesn’t require you to do unsafe or uncomfortable movements.

Dance

Throw on a few tunes for a few minutes each day and just dance! This is a low-pressure way to get in some physical activity without feeling like you’re working out.

Walking

Simply taking a walk is a great way to get exercise without pushing yourself too much. If this is your preferred exercise during the third trimester, try to make it a habit. For example, aim to take a walk every evening after dinner. Getting a walking buddy, like your friend or partner, can help keep you accountable to your goal.

You could also add an element of adventure by taking a walk to explore a small town or park in your area. Also, consider bringing along entertainment like listening to your favorite music or playing an interesting podcast.

Swimming

Swimming is a good choice in the third trimester because it takes the pressure off of your aching joints. While aerobic exercise is recommended, it typically puts at least some pressure on your joints, which can feel uncomfortable or painful with added weight and swelling. Swimming provides an opportunity for you to get the same benefits without the negative effects on your joints. This is an especially helpful recommendation for those who have trouble exercising in the third trimester due to back pain.

Prenatal cardio

Cardio can be more difficult in the third trimester. You may find yourself tiring out more easily and having difficulty doing some exercises. For this reason, you’ll want to look for cardio workout routines that are specific to pregnancy and, if possible, specific to the third trimester.

Here are some third trimester cardio YouTube videos:

Summary: Third Trimester Exercise

Exercise is recommended for most people during pregnancy, including in the third trimester. However, you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Exercise during the third trimester has many benefits including decreasing pain, swelling and fatigue while improving other symptoms, like your mental health. Make sure to choose exercises that are safe and comfortable. Avoid physical activity that requires you to challenge your balance, lay on your back or that poses falling or hitting risks. 

When you’re exercising, make sure to work at a moderate intensity and don’t exert yourself. Modify movements as needed and always stay hydrated.

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