An effective strength training program can provide a multitude of benefits for a woman during her pregnancy. However, an expecting mother undergoes substantial physiological changes throughout the terms, and these changes should be taken into account to ensure the utmost safety conditions. The following sections will detail the benefits of strength training during pregnancy, safety measures, and guide you specific resistance training protocol based on the current research to ensure a safe, effective pregnant workout experience.
7 Benefits of Prenatal Exercise
Improved Weight Management It is estimated that 60% of expecting mothers remain sedentary throughout their pregnancy. Numerous research results have shown that following a regular program of prenatal exercise can significantly decrease excess weight gain. One study showed that pregnant women who maintained physical activity levels gained 20% less weight while pregnant than those who remained inactive. Other studies have shown that women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were significantly heavier at long-term follow-up than women who gained the recommended amount or less.
Reduction in Gestational Diabetes Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is the most common medical complication associated with childbirth, affecting up to 10% of all pregnancies. Women with GDM are prone to developing diabetes postpartum. Physically active women who exercise throughout pregnancy reduced their odd of acquiring GDM by 59% compared to those women who are not active.
Lower Rates of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related disorder that encompasses maternal hypertension, proteinuria, and edema. It can bring about seizure and/or cerebral hemorrhage and is the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States. Although data on the subject are somewhat limited, research suggests that regimented prenatal exercise may reduce the incidence of preeclampsia by 24% and also oppose the progression of the disease.
Better Psychological Health
Hormonal shifts, body changes, and impaired physical function play a role in reducing a woman’s feelings of psychological health. As a result, pregnant women tend to have alterations in mood, often leading to depressive episodes as much as11.7% before pregnancy to 25.2% during the third trimester. Studies have found that women who performed a moderate amount of exercise had lower scores on a test measuring depressive symptoms during pregnancy and into the postpartum period compared with those who were not active.
Less Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common pregnancy-related disorders, with 76% of women reporting Lumbosacral pain at some point during the term. Studies have shown that pregnant women who participated in an exercise program specifically designed to strengthen the core reported a significant reduction in the intensity of LBP and related discomfort throughout the term.
Enhanced Fetal Development
Recent studies haves shown not only is exercising during pregnancy safe it can actually have a positive impact on the fetus. Positive effects of exercise on the fetus appear to extend into the postnatal period. Children of the women who perform vigorous exercise throughout the term have been found to exhibit signs of heightened attentiveness and discipline, and by the age of 5, these children are neurologically developed more those compared with the control subjects.
Women who are physically active during pregnancy have been shown to have a decreased risk of premature labor, a reduced incidence of cesarean delivery and shorter hospitalization. In addition, there was a reduced incidence of acute fetal stress in the exercise group as compared with controls. Overall, research has found that adoption of a regimented program of maternal exercise has no negative effects on delivery and generally results in an easier pregnancy with fewer complications.
Strength Training Guidelines
Before engaging in a resistance training program, pregnant women should always get medical clearance from their physician. Although no definitive research has been performed to assess optimal maternal training frequency, it’s recommended that 3 days a week strength training routine can be applied without concern. Beginners should perform 1 set per exercise, whereas intermediate and advanced trainees can realize further benefits from 2 to 3 sets. Rest between sets should last approximately 2 minutes, allowing enough time for recovery of maternal heart rate. Additionally, make sure to avoid holding one’s breath during exercise. It increases both heart rate and blood pressure which can decrease splanchnic blood flow and uterine perfusion which is potentially dangerous to the child. Additionally, it is essential to keep well hydrated throughout exercise to increase heat dissipation. Consuming 8oz of water before training and then an additional 8oz for every 15 minutes of exercise is a good rule of thumb to maintain fluid balance. It is also important to note that the secretion of relaxin increases significantly during the first trimester, causing joints to become less stable. Therefore it is particularly important for the pregnant woman to use proper form during exercise. Ballistic movements, Olympic movement and plyometrics should be avoided as they can heighten the possibility of strains and tears of muscles.