I remember the days when being “active” was frowned upon during pregnancy. Now, supported by research and approval of a physician, being physically active during pregnancy can be very beneficial to both mother and baby. A reason why I stay active, is for overall health and to prepare myself for pregnancy (when that day comes). Those of you that are close to me, don’t hold your breath! That day is still in a distant future. But, for those expecting mothers, here are a few key benefits to incorporating resistance training into your weekly routine. Granted, always consult with your healthcare professional before beginning any new program.
Stay tuned for PART 2 (Safety Concerns) and PART 3 (Exercise Routine for each trimester).
1. IMPROVED WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
Pregnancy is identified as a RISK for inactivity and obesity with 60% of expectant mothers remain sedentary. Ladies that were active and maintained their fitness level during their pregnancy gained 20% less weight than those who remained inactive. They also had lower body fat measurements and weight retention POSTpartum was relative to how active or inactive they were.
2. REDUCED INCIDENCE OF GESTATIONAL DIABETES
Diabetes is a huge risk in our family. I hope to beat all the “typical” diseases that seem to be past down by genetics (blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc). Unfortunately, I have other issues from lack of proper recovery from athletic injuries and syncope. So ladies, if diabetes is HIGH in your family…resistance training showed to reduce the odds of developing gestational diabetes by 59%!!! Those that do develop GBM during pregnancy have a high chance of developing diabetes postpartum. Don’t you just love how our bodies work sometimes?! A study showed that resistance training and a balanced diet may also help to reduce the need for insulin therapy for individuals with GBM.
3. DECREASED INCIDENCE OF PREECLAMPSIA
Preeclampsia is the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States. It is a condition that can include maternal hypertension, proteinuria, edema, and sometimes even seizure/cerebral hemorrhage. Studies are limited on this topic but have shown that resistance training may prevent or oppose the progression of preeclampsia…with risk decreasing as volume of physical activity increased. Light activity had a 24% chance of reducing risk where vigorous activity had a 54% reduction.
4. ENHANCED BODY IMAGE
One of the MAIN reasons I receive clients or get inquiries is so that they can LOOK & FEEL BETTER! I mean, who doesn’t want to look good naked??? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If any women out there are like me….WELL, we can be pretty hard critics on ourselves. Must be all of those hormones, which ladies as you know, are out of control during pregnancy! <3 Ladies that exercised at least 90 minutes a week of moderate intensity were more satisfied about their body image throughout pregnancy.
5. BETTER PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
Pregnancy may increase depressive symptoms due to these hormonal shifts, changes in our bodies, and impaired physical function. I love the feeling I have after a workout session! Anyone else feel like they can just take on the world and be WONDER WOMAN?! Just a SINGLE bout of exercise can alter your mood into a positive one. A consistent workout routine has even shown to be as effective as medication in treating mild cases of depression and anxiety. So, the next time you’re feeling a little down, go for a walk or light lifting session.
6. REDUCED LOWER BACK PAIN
I am currently in physical therapy to strengthen my core neck muscles and back from a previous injury. I have pain now from them being compromised. I couldn’t imagine what carrying a baby would feel like. During pregnancy, our bodies release more of the hormone called relaxin. This leads to increased joint mobility but a decrease in joint stability. So, if you are expecting and experiencing some low back pain, try incorporating in some core strengthening exercises to help relieve some of that tension. Blog article to follow soon with examples of what to do!
7. IMPROVED BABY DEVELOPMENT
With the MYTH of refraining from exercise during pregnancy to avoid adverse outcome DEBUNKED….prenatal exercise can actually be very beneficial to the development of your baby. A study showed that women who lifted weights 3-5 times per week gave birth to babies that had more lean body mass, longer and reduction in fetal fat mass. Ladies that were involved in more vigorous activity showed that their offspring displayed signs of discipline and attentiveness and were more neurodevelopmentally more advanced by the age of five. These results from this study were contributed to the benefits of regular exercise to increase blood volume, placental function, cardiac output and overall efficiency of nutrient delivery to the fetus.
8. EASIER LABOR
If there is anything out there to make LABOR easier, count me in! I have to give virtual high fives to all the moms out there that have given a natural birth, ya’ll are ROCKSTARS….this is one thing I am absolutely terrified of! A few studies found that women who were active during their pregnancies had a lower risk of premature labor and reduced incidence of c-section delivery. Plus, they experienced a SHORTER duration of labor, hospitalization and reduced risk of fetal stress.
Overall, the incorporation of exercise during pregnancy has the opportunity to have an easier pregnancy with limited to no complications and no negative effects on delivery. Stay tuned for the third part of this blog series. Now you know a few key benefits, you are probably wondering WHAT TO DO?! Don’t worry…I got you covered!
Source: Schoenfeld, B. (2011). Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal. Volume 33 (5), 67-75.