First trimester exercise: Everything you need to know

First trimester exercise

Congratulations, you're having a baby! Want to know if you can start or continue your fitness journey along the way? We caught up with pre and post-natal master trainer, celebrity PT and founder of 'Bumps and Burpees' Charlie Launder to dispell the myths and get to the facts surrounding exercise and fitness during the first trimester of pregnancy.

When is the first trimester of pregnancy?

The first trimester of pregnancy is from the first day of your last period until the end of week 12 of pregnancy. Most people find out they are pregnant between week 4 and 6, so they have already been pregnant for some time.

What symptoms can I expect during the first trimester?

Everyone will react differently to pregnancy and this starts from the very beginning. Some of you will hardly notice any change and still be full of energy, whilst others may be completely floored by the influx of pregnancy hormones and feel they need more rest in their day. Both of these feelings are completely ok.

Some common side effects include:

  • Exhaustion
  • ‘Morning sickness’ ( -which despite its name can happen at any time of time of day)
  • Super sensitive breasts
  • Breasts start to grow
  • Appetite changes

You may experience all, some or none of the above. It completely varies from pregnancy to pregnancy.

First trimester exercise

Should I exercise during my first trimester?

There is no ‘one rule fits all’ here. The best advice is to listen to your own body. Intuition goes a long way!

The most important thing to remember throughout your pregnancy is that your body is doing something incredible. Your body will quickly be experiencing many changes during these first three months. So if you’re feeling exhausted and/or suffering from any other pregnancy side effects and really don’t feel like exercising then don’t feel deflated - get the rest you need. Tone your exercise regime down a notch for however long you feel you need to allow it to get on with its job.

Equally, there is no danger in continuing to exercise through your first trimester if you feel fine to do so. Your symptoms of fatigue and nausea may be minimal, or you may indeed feel that some gentle exercise will help your symptoms ease. If you are keen to exercise during your first trimester of pregnancy, the main thing is to listen to your body along the way. It’s a clever machine and will tell you if something doesn’t feel quite right. If you still want extra reassurance about certain moves, then of course talk it through with your existing instructor or a pre-natal PT.

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But I’m nervous about overdoing it before my 12 week scan

Some women prefer to ease off exercising until they have had their 12 weeks scan, especially if they have suffered a miscarriage previously. This is purely for peace of mind, and if this is something you feel more comfortable doing then you must not beat yourself up about it.

If you are feeling a little anxious but simultaneously don’t want to put exercise on hold, you might fancy trying something much slower than your usual exercise regime, such as yoga or pilates.

Some people find that continuing to move but in a low impact way goes a long way to boost their mood and confidence during these early weeks of pregnancy.

first trimester pregnancy exercise plan

Are they any types of exercise I should avoid during my first trimester?

  • Avoid overly-hot exercise classes

Classes like hot yoga are out, as you really want to avoid getting your body temperature too high. If you’d like to continue with your sweaty cardio classes, such as spinning, I recommend trying to position yourself near the fans or the door so that you don’t overheat as much.

The reason to avoid extremely hot exercise, is that during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy it can give your baby a slight increased risk of being born with a birth defect. Don’t let this frighten you though, as your body is very good at regulating your temperature. So just be mindful of it.

  • Avoid high-risk sports

Avoid high-risk sports; particularly those with a high risk of falling or impact. There are no hard and fast rules of which sports to avoid, but I would certainly recommend avoiding combat sports such as hockey, netball and football. This sensible approach to sport should be applied to your entire pregnancy, so choose your sport wisely and no tightrope walking for now!

I don’t usually exercise much. Is now a bad time to start?

There is an age-old myth that you can’t start exercising during pregnancy if you haven’t exercised regularly beforehand. This isn’t strictly true, in fact we wholeheartedly recommend that you start engaging in some physical activity as early on in your pregnancy as you can.

The rule is more about how hard you push yourself. So now is not the time to aim for breaking records. If you’re new to exercise, then make sure you are getting guidance from a qualified fitness professional during your first trimester. If you exercise already but not that frequently, then try and stick to what you know rather than taking on a completely new fitness challenge.

Benefits of exercising during pregnancy

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

If you feel positively ready to either start or continue exercise during your first trimester, then your body and mind will certainly thank you for it.

  • Emotional benefits

Exercising releases endorphins, or “happy hormones” which can seriously lift your mood, reduce stress and give you some feeling of control back with all the changes going on within your body and your life

  • Physical benefits

Exercising will also help keep you physically strong and fit throughout your pregnancy, which will come in particularly handy once that bump starts growing and weighing you down!


So in summary, always listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to exercise in your first trimester if you can, but if you don’t feel like it then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Be patient, as your energy will return soon and when you feel ready you can get back to it.

To stay up-to-date with the latest in pre and post-natal fitness, follow Charlie Launder on instagram @bumpsandburpees


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