Second trimester exercise: Everything you need to know

Happy days, you’ve made it to the second trimester of pregnancy!

This trimester is many people’s favourite. Often, unpleasant symptoms such as morning sickness will start to subside after the first 12 weeks and your energy levels will start to return slightly.

As such this trimester can be a welcome occasion to feel more like yourself again.

As you’ve had your all important 12 week scan, you’ll also probably feel excited about sharing your news with family and friends, if they don’t know already. Many women report feeling a lot more relaxed once the “secret” is out and they have had their scan to prove that everything is as it should be.


Now you are feeling a little more relaxed, exercising can start to creep up the priority list again. Returning to the gym or exercise classes will feel great in theory, but just remember to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself on where you were at before you fell pregnant.

Your body is going through all sorts of changes. At this point you may:

  • Feel heavier
  • Get out of breath quicker

Even though you might only have gained a small amount of weight, you may feel noticeably heavier. It’s also likely that you will become out of breath much quicker than you used to. This is caused by your growing uterus, and the fact that you now share your oxygen and blood with your baby!


You may find that you start to stand slightly differently as your bump grows. That is because the body shifts to make room for your baby. As the bump gets bigger in the second trimester, you will primarily notice the following physiological changes:

  • LOWER BACK: starts to curve more
  • SHOULDERS: gradually move back
  • JOINTS: start to relax / reduced stability

The postural changes are in response to your growing uterus and shifting center of gravity. The increased instability in your joints during pregnancy is a result of your body producing excess amounts of relaxin.

It is important that your body is strong enough to adapt to all these changes.

What is relaxin?

Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone responsible for relaxing spinal and pelvic ligaments and joints to facilitate childbirth. As such, your joints will become less stable during pregnancy, so keeping strong around your hips, knees, and ankles is vital to supporting this process.


1. Low impact cardio

In terms of cardio, it is worth choosing activities that are low impact to protect your joints. So spinning is probably a better choice than running at this stage. Any HIIT workout you do should include low impact variations where possible; for example do step ups instead of box jumps.

As mentioned, it is hugely important to start focusing on building strength when you’re pregnant. Building strength to help maintain a good posture, to prevent you from rolling an ankle and to feel able to continue with your everyday life as best as possible all the way through your pregnancy.

2. Strength training

Ensuring you are strong in your upper back and glutes will help take some of the pressure off your lower back, which you will be very grateful for as you start to get heavier.

Don’t panic about getting a gym membership though, as strength work doesn’t have to be done in a gym. Great ways to safely build strength during the second trimester include:

  • Pilates
  • Bodyweight moves
  • Resistance band exercises
  • Light dumbell workouts

These types of moves can easily be done at home and are particularly good to focus on for safely improving strength in your upper back and glutes:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Bent over rows

Your second trimester is also an ideal time to really start connecting with your pelvic floor and deep core. Pilates is particularly great for this, as you will learn how to use your breathing effectively, which is essential for any strength work.

If you’d like more guidance, see a women’s health physio on a one-to-one basis who can show you how to engage with your deep core.



Now that your bump is showing itself more, try to avoid exercises that cause too much intra-abdominal pressure. These will be different for everyone, as it depends on how well you can maintain your core tension during any given exercise. But as a rule of thumb, its recommended you AVOID the following:

  • Planks (holding them for too long)
  • Leg raises (and any moves where you lift both legs together)
  • Crunches


Overall, enjoy your second trimester! If you have the energy to exercise, then by all means do it. Just be mindful of pushing yourself to exhaustion, as your body is already very busy doing something extremely important and it needs some energy for that too.

If you have the energy to exercise... do it. Just be mindful of pushing yourself to exhaustion, as your body is already very busy doing something extremely important!

— Charlie Launder, founder of Bumps and Burpees


Charlie Launder is London's go-to pre and post natal exercise specialist. As founder of Bumps & Burpees, she works with new and expecting mums all over London and her brilliant work is regularly featured in the UK press.

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