Recently I’ve had many consults regarding exercising in pregnancy. I LOVE these as we really go through an understanding of a client’s currently activity levels, what you love doing, how to modify and scale as your pregnancy progresses while bringing in the needed elements of pelvic health and labour prep. Expecting mums leave empowered with more knowledge on their body, how it’s changing, what is to come and how they can adapt their fitness regime going forward.
On the flip side, I’m still aware that many women stop exercising for a period of time due to fear of the unknown and therefore movement. The same questions always arise – what is ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’? What ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ I do? The result is an abandonment of, or refusal to start exercise during pregnancy.
The reality is most women are not adequately advised on this matter but regular physical exercise, including strength training, during pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits including:
Sounds pretty great right?!
I appreciate there are still worries around risk of miscarriage, harming the baby and injury as examples. BUT it is important to highlight that evidence-based research has shown exercise is NOT related with an increased risk of maternal or perinatal adverse outcomes. In fact, pregnancy is pretty good time to start exercising with increased motivation to maintain or start a healthy lifestyle. In addition, with the increased frequency of medical appointments, physical exercise can be monitored more closely.
When structuring a training programme, the primary consideration should be the health of mum (YOU!) and baby. You are not looking to achieve max strength during this time. The general training goal should seek to maintain a reasonable level of fitness rather than hitting that 1 rep max. I always say, make sure you have 1 or 2 reps left in the tank, so not to push to failure! Specifically, the type of exercise carried out and intensity should be based on your previous and current fitness levels, medical history and characteristics of your pregnancy (aches and pains, any complications etc.), adapting appropriately as it progresses. Moreover, you need to feel comfortable and free from anxiety when exercising. It should be fun and enjoyable not an added stress. So if you still can’t shift some of that worry or concern, then go with how you feel and adhering to the current physical activity guidelines is enough to achieve the main benefits:
If you are new to exercise start gradually, if you are already active, keep going with scaling options.
Always check in with your healthcare professional to get medical clearance to engage in a training programme and gain an understanding of current evidence-based guidelines and contraindications to exercise. I recommend using the Active Pregnancy Foundation for easy to digest and up to date information alongside links to professional associations, recent research and published guidelines. Seek out qualified pre & post natal specialists and classes to advise where you need support, and remember you are within your right to ask about trainers’ / instructors’ certifications, me included!
If you are using apps, please check for the suitability. In a recent Jan 2022 study reviewing 27 apps promoting physical activity and exercise in pregnancy, few aligned with the current evidence-based physical activity guidelines. In particular, none screened users for contraindications to exercise and few involved qualified experts in the development of the apps. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
At a higher level, consider this in an uncomplicated pregnancy: if it feels comfortable KEEP GOING. If it’s uncomfortable STOP & SEEK ADVICE. Always weight up the risk vs. reward and ask yourself the question – for what purpose does this exercise or activity serve me right now? You may need to adapt quicker, especially if you are an athlete, but it is not forever.
Any questions? I’m all ears! Just get in touch. I carry out 90 and 120 minute 1-2-1 consults on adapting exercise for your pregnancy both virtual and in person alongside personal training. Sign up HERE.
If you are already thinking about your postpartum return to fitness, The re|BORN Postpartum Method Waitlist for September 2022 is open! It is the most comprehensive corrective and specialist functional fitness postpartum programme that focuses not only on rehab but also REAL results. Say goodbye to injury, aches and pains and hello to your highly functioning body that looks and feels good. Join the WAITLIST today!
DISCLAIMER: this blog is not a complete article fully inclusive of all the benefits, risks, contraindications and adaptations in pregnancy, nor covering all the requirements for safe and effective program design and execution for the expecting mother. This is informative only with selective content. Please do get in touch if you are unsure of how to start or progress your training.
Ribeiro, Maria Margarida, Andrade, Ana and Nunes, Inês. “Physical exercise in pregnancy: benefits, risks and prescription” Journal of Perinatal Medicine, vol. 50, no. 1, 2022, pp. 4-17. https://doi.org/10.1515/jpm-2021-0315
Hayman M, Alfrey K, Waters K, Cannon S, Mielke G, Keating S, Mena G, Mottola M, Evenson K, Davenport M, Barlow S, Budzynski-Seymour E, Comardelle N, Dickey M, Harrison C, Kebbe M, Moholdt T, Moran L, Nagpal T, Schoeppe S, Alley S, Brown W, Williams S, Vincze L
Evaluating Evidence-Based Content, Features of Exercise Instruction, and Expert Involvement in Physical Activity Apps for Pregnant Women: Systematic Search and Content Analysis
JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2022;10(1):e31607, URL: https://mhealth.jmir.org/2022/1/e31607, DOI: 10.2196/31607
Schoenfeld, Brad MSc, CSCS Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design, Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2011 – Volume 33 – Issue 5 – p 67-75, doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31822ec2d8