The why’s and how’s of training during pregnancy
Exercise is important. That’s just a general fact that I think we can all agree with. I find it interesting how many people are impressed when I tell them that I’m still training relatively intensely during my pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, at one point I did have a fleeting moment of thinking, “My God, if I keep doing these jump squats, this baby is surely to fall right out of me!” Luckily that’s not how it works. Several studies have shown that not only is exercise good for you, but your little nugget benefits from it too!
Training prepares your body and mind for labour.
As everyone keeps pointing out, “It’s not called labour for nothing!” Though I still haven’t experienced it, I’d prefer to be as physically ready for it as possible. I mean, you wouldn’t just do a marathon without preparing your body for it? So why do the same with labour? Consistent sub-maximal cardiovascular exercising (fancy talk for doing cardio most days of the weak at a pace that gets your heart rate up) results in a greater circulatory reserve and increased cardiac output, which means you’ll be able to better handle the cardio demands of labour.
Regular weight bearing exercise during pregnancy (this includes resistance training and most forms of cardio) have been shown to result in a higher number of uncomplicated, spontaneous deliveries (this means, not having to be induced), as well as a lower rate of C-sections. Not only that but the length of labour can be reduced by as much as one-third compared to women who do not exercise during pregnancy. The chance of a shorter labour alone is one of the main reasons why I’m continuing to exercise regularly!
Baby benefits from mom’s healthy habit.
I could go into a lot more detail about the benefits to mom, her body, and her mental health when exercising, but if you’re still not convinced, then maybe I should fill you in on how your baby benefits from this. Babies born to exercise-happy mamas are less fat. Don’t freak out, it’s only by like 300 grams! I remember learning in university that having less fat by the age of 2 is actually good because this is when the body creates all of it’s fat cells. Once the fat cells are laid out, you’re basically determining your baby’s fate with weight gain. If your body has an excessive amount of fat cells, chances are, you’ll probably struggle with weight problems because once those cells are in your body, they aren’t going anywhere! Sure, they can shrink with diet and exercise, but if you have an excessive amount to begin with, then you’ll have a harder time leaning out. If you’ve come across peer-reviewed articles that contradict this, please do share! I’d like to stay on top of the physiology.
How much is enough?
So now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, but how hard do I have to exercise?” Well that depends on what your baseline is. If you are brand new to fitness, I can not stress this enough, work with a professional who has experience in working with prenatal women. Exercising is great for you, however, at this time your ligaments loosening, your blood pressure may be changing, and quite frankly you’re tired almost always. This is a recipe for injury if you have no idea what you’re doing. A prenatal trainer can help keep you accountable, and teach you how to properly execute exercises while working with your ever-changing body.
If you’re a seasoned fitness fanatic, be careful so as to not over do it when you’re pregnant. The ACSM recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all days of the week. “Moderate” means that your heart rate is up, and you can maintain a conversations of about 2 sentences max. Now is not the time to break any records. You are training for labour, your mental health, and your baby. If you’re naturally competitive, just let that shit go for the next few months. Let’s be real here for a moment, if you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that even a brisk walk can be enough to do you in some days. It’s just part of the territory. You’re body is busy working away!
Personally, I like to do 20-30 minutes of cardio, followed by about 20 minutes of total body resistance exercises three to four days per week. I’m naturally a very lanky person with long, skinny limbs, and lifting weights makes me feel good. Besides, babies get heavy after a while, may as well prepare my pipes for the little one! I spend a little extra time stretching these days, and like to throw in yoga at least twice a week. I have a fairly sedentary full time job, so exercise is of the utmost importance to me. If I don’t make time for it, I get extra cranky, and my poor husband has to deal with my moods (which are all over the map as it already is).
So there you have it! Just a shred of reasons why you should consider exercising throughout pregnancy. I’m open to discussion and would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!
Reference: Hyatt, G., MS, & Cram, C., MS. (2003). Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise Design. Tuscon, AZ: DSWFitness.
*DISCLOSURE: Yes, I am a certified personal trainer, with a background in training prenatal women, however, I am not a doctor. Every pregnancy is unique, and be sure to consult your health care professional before beginning any workout routine! The facts stated in this post are based off of low-risk, healthy pregnancies. If you do not fall into this category, that’s ok, just make sure listen to your doctor first and foremost.