When discussing the topic of exercise during pregnancy I have found some women have mixed feelings and appear apprehensive to follow a strength training routine. Skeptics fear that strength training during pregnancy may have harmful effects on the prenatal care of the baby and may become problematic and dangerous.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, recent studies show that adopting a resistance training routine during pregnancy can be very beneficial for both the mother and baby. According to Linda May, PhD and Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biosciences at Kansas City University, strength training proves beneficial to expectant mothers. “Along with a proper diet, resistance training throughout gestation can lead to decreased maternal weight gain, improved strength and flexibility, improved self-image, enhanced body image and decreased symptoms of pregnancy." May goes on to explain how strength training during pregnancy can also increase energy levels, enhance post natal recovery, lower prevalence’s of lower back pain and promote better circulation of blood to the extremities. “In addition maternal strength training either caused no adverse effects or in some cases contributed to better overall maternal health."
When it comes to strength training both mother and child share in the added health benefits. Studies show that babies born to mothers that have participated in a regular strength training regiments during their pregnancy have maintained a healthy birth weight, length and Apgar score (The test is designed to quickly evaluate a newborn's physical condition and to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care). May also points to research that has been done suggesting that maternal participation in (strength training, yoga) may lead to improved fetal cardiac autonomic control.
After reading all of the potential health benefits of maternal strength training a woman may ask, “What is the catch?” My answer would be there is no catch. Just simply that universal precaution should be followed to insure the safety of the mother and unborn baby. There are a few things a woman participating in strength training during pregnancy should watch for. First is the potential for abdominal trauma due to free weights. For this reason a woman who is pregnant should not exercise with free weights -especially if they do not have previous experience using them. If a woman does feel experienced enough to use free weights she should use extreme caution to insure there is no chance of injuring the abdomen during exercise.
Resistance Training is an important part of any exercise program and it is especially helpful to women during pregnancy. Provided the right precautions are taken and guidelines are followed a woman can maximize her health benefits from strength training in a safe effective manner. Here are some things to remember if you are currently pregnant and thinking of starting a strength training routine. Always remember that a routine should start with a warm up and a cool down. Pick the days during the week you would like to exercise and determine how long you would like to exercise. 30 to 60 minutes is optimal. Along with strength training and exercise maintain a proper diet to effectively maximize the health benefits of strength training during pregnancy. Prioritizing is very important when planning any exercise program. In order for it to be truly effective to maintain and improve your overall health, working out has to be a part of your daily routine.
Dominique A. Davis
Rehabilitation Trainer B.S/ Exercise Physiologist
Detroit Medical Center
Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
Ford Community & Performing Arts Center
15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126 313-943-2350