I get asked this question A LOT! Should you lift weights while pregnant? It is generally recommended that healthy pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, most days of the week. I can certainly attest to feeling less lethargic and invigorated after every session during my own pregnancy with Noah.
If you were physically active prior to your pregnancy, then there is a good chance that you can continue to exercise at the same level, as long as you are comfortable. This includes high impact activities such as running, which many women tend to avoid during pregnancy. Numerous studies clearly show that pre-natal exercise offers numerous health benefits for mom and baby. These include less weight gain during and more rapid weight loss once you’ve given birth. Women who train during pregnancy also tend to have easier pregnancies and fewer complications at birth.
As long as there are no health concerns and you have been cleared for exercise by your doctor you can do the exercises you love for as long as your body lets you do it comfortably.
Being very fond of the weight rack myself, I was tentative to keep on hitting the weights room. After my first few sessions however I realised my body will set the pace as long as I moderated weight and intensity.
There is no reason to avoid the exercise you love especially if you trained weights before your pregnancy. Keep the following guidelines in mind to ensure no unexpected surprises
- Wear a support belt during all your sessions, this ensures that you feel more comfortable and helps your core (transverse abdominus) and back (erector spinae) muscles cope with the added strain.
- After the first trimester, avoid lying flat on your back (supine) to perform exercises. The size and weight of the uterus can put pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, which can restrict blood flow. Yes this is very real! -after almost passing out on my OBGYN’s table I was very aware of lying on my side during all exercises and also resting or sleeping.
- The hormone relaxin causes joints to loosen during pregnancy, so just be mindful of that before you lift to heavy. This is a phenomenon I felt immediately during my own pregnancy so I also omit lunges or any other movement that challenges your balance or place your joints in a n unstable or strained position (it felt like my hips were loose😊). Stick to bilateral moves where both feet are on the ground.
- Be mindful of your back throughout your session as your core strength has been compromised by the lengthening and stretching of your abdominal muscles. Your weight belt will also help with support.
- Your goal is to maintain your weight and health not lose weight or get stronger. Pregnancy is not a time to push limits or build muscle.
- Strengthening your deep core (pelvic floor and transverse abdominus) is extremely important as it weakens during pregnancy to prepare for the birthing process.
- “Distasis recti” is a condition that occurs when the “six pack muscles” begin to pull apart from the midline of the body, most notably around, above and below the belly button for a width of two fingers. Therefor training your rectus abdominus should not be your main focus during pregnancy.
- Whichever exercise you choose during pregnancy it is important to moderate intensity. The old guideline of keeping your heart rate under 140bpm seems to be dated advice. Apply the talk test to your training. You should break a sweat but still be able to carry on with a conversation.
Contact me for my “Growing a baby and staying fit’- program that will keep you moving in the comfort of your own sitting room without fancy equipment!
Do not exercise without strict medical supervision if you suffer from the following:
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Heart disease
- Placenta previa (or other issues with your placenta)
- History of pre-term labour
The importance of an exercise program during pregnancy is that it should keep at maintenance level. Nothing more and nothing less. We are working towards long-term health benefits for you and your unborn child and not looking to achieve weight or performance goals.
Hope that helps!
Stay fit and active and – always remember “Don’t stop until you’re proud”