How should you exercise during the third trimester? Is it OK to exercise at all? Of course it is! You just need to know what to focus on and which exercises will get you the results you want.

The third trimester is between weeks 29 and 40 of pregnancy. There is a big difference between exercising when you are in week 29 and exercising when you are in week 39. By the end of pregnancy you are bigger, your breathing is shallower, you get breathless faster, your belly gets in the way, you can feel as though your stomach muscles have totally separated, and you can start to feel fed up with the whole pregnancy thing.

Exercise in the second part of this trimester should be about preparing for giving birth; that is, keeping your hips flexible and learning how to control your pelvic floor – which you do by tightening and relaxing it. This part is important during labour itself – especially during the pushing stage.

Here are some tips on what to think about exercise-wise during this period, because there is obviously a great deal to consider:

1. Listen to your body

It might sound a bit vague, but if you’ve been exercising up until now, you’ll know a lot about your body and how you tend to react to exercise. You should be able to tell when you’re too tired to work out or when you can increase the weights, and know exactly which muscles you need to activate when you exercise. When it comes to having a heavily pregnant body, the same applies but there are still differences – especially if you are pregnant with your first child.

Things to think about: your energy level during and after exercise – do you feel energised or more tired than usual? How does your pelvis feel? Are you sore after exercising? What did you do differently this time? Feel free to analyse!

2. Strength train but reduce the amount of weight

Pregnancy should not be the time for setting personal bests at the gym. When strength training during pregnancy, you should always think about the ‘function’, and not just exercise for the sake of it (which is not something I usually recommend in other cases either). Now it is even more important to know the purpose of your fitness regime and the exercises you choose. Exercise – with all that lifting, carrying, weird twisting and strange sleeping positions – is supposed to prepare you for motherhood. This is especially true when you are as heavy as you are in the third trimester. The body parts you exercise will be critical, especially given that you lack support from your core due to the physiological changes your body has undergone. Perhaps you should switch from exercises on one leg to more stable exercises where you stand with both feet on the ground? Avoid overdoing the weights when you exercise during this time.

3. Lower the intensity

Sweating is good, even if you’re pregnant. However, you shouldn’t be dripping with sweat – you need to avoid overheating. But what does that mean in practical terms? Circuits might not be the right exercise for the third trimester. You can finish with a superset or triset, for example, if you want to feel alive (well, kind of!), but the circuits will have to wait a while.

4. Cut your power walks in half

The problem with power walks is that they can end up being too long and too intense. Are you starting to have contractions while power walking? Reduce the pace or cut the power walk in half.

5. Add birthing exercises

What do I mean by that? Well, these are exercises to help you with your breathing so you can start learning to relax (which is an important part of labour!) and get your baby in the right position for birth. Or they can help you stretch out muscles that have become too tight – especially towards the end when your belly is so big. Examples are stretches for the lower back, hip flexors, glutes and neck.

Here are some good suggestions!

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