Pregnancy & Strength Training: Benefits, Precautions, & Guidelines

you’re pregnant and want to continue your regular workout schedule. But you’re not sure how or even if you should. Forget those worries! Personal experience combined with extensive research has shown us that not only is working out possible, it’s very beneficial as long as you keep a few simple guidelines in place. After thorough review, we found that beginning an appropriate workout routine during pregnancy, including strength training, is acceptable even for a woman without previous strength training experience, if she uses our guidelines. (We do recommend adequate guidance and supervision if you have not had any previous strength training experience or it’s been a while since you participated in an exercise program.) Of course, all workouts should be approved by a licensed physician.
 This chapter explains benefits of strength training while pregnant and tells you what is safe and what is an exaggeration of the facts. The guidelines that are outlined are supported by information as presented in some of the most prestigious journals available, including American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and Clinics in Sports Medicine, as well as additional information from the most notable literature on obstetrics and gynecology. We present the most significant points from this information that reveal the truths about pregnancy and strength training. 

ExErCiSE duriNg PrEgNaNCy

 Working out before and during pregnancy has also proven to be beneficial in getting back in shape after the baby comes. You can usually get a doctor’s release soon after delivery and begin your postpartum workouts. Women have found that they look forward to getting right back into their fitness routine; doing so has a positive effect on the new mother’s self-esteem and mood.
 Your fitness routine should be designed to fit you as an individual and each aspect of your individual fitness routine is equally important. The three major elements of any fitness routine are: stretching, aerobic exercise (cardio), and strength training. While this book will focus on strength training, it is important to incorporate aerobic exercise and stretching to complete your routine. 
 Aerobic exercise is imperative to keep your heart healthy and to build up endurance for labor. A few recommended choices for a good aerobic workout include walking (on a treadmill or outdoors if the weather permits), swimming, a low-impact aerobic floor routine, and using an elliptical trainer or stationary bike. Your cardio session during pregnancy should last anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, depending on your fitness level and ability.
 A client of mine named Michelle demonstrated the benefits of working out during pregnancy. As she became aware of her growing/changing body, she searched for a way to maintain her self-confidence and some of her physique. About a month into her pregnancy, Michelle began to work out with me two to three times a week with small weights and various pieces of equipment. She continued this routine right up to three days before she delivered. 
 Michelle’s delivery took three and a half hours and had no major complications. She attributes her “ease” and confidence during labor to being in good shape and sticking with her exercise routine throughout her pregnancy. Let’s discuss just a few of the benefits Michelle received and what you can expect if you follow the Delivering Fitness workouts.

BENEfitS of ExErCiSE duriNg PrEgNaNCy

EaSiEr LaBor aNd dELivEry 

During exercise, there is an increase in beta-endorphin levels. These increases are even higher during pregnancy. Beta-endorphin is a hormone that is believed to decrease your perception of pain. Women who exercise regularly showed lower perceived exertion and pain during labor and an improved course of labor. Other studies show a shorter duration of labor and fewer obstetrical complications.

fEWEr aSSoCiatEd diSComfortS 

Studies show that exercise during pregnancy increases energy level and improves self-image, maternal fitness, and physical capacity. Studies also show decreases in discomforts such as back pain, hip pain, leg cramps, varicose veins, fatigue, nausea, leg swelling, hemorrhoids, and pregnancy weight gain. Exercise during pregnancy can also combat depression and fatigue.

imProvEd HEaLtH of your BaBy 

Women who work out gain less weight and their babies typically have a smaller percentage of fat at birth. These babies also maintained lower body fat percentage into childhood. With the rate of childhood obesity being epidemic in the country, this is an added benefit you may not have considered.

dECrEaSEd riSk of gEStatioNaL diaBEtES 

Exercise has been used as an adjunct to treatment of gestational diabetes. It may also lower need for insulin in some patients.

dECrEaSEd riSk of oStEoPoroSiS 

Strength training has been linked to slowing or preventing bone loss. Pregnancy can contribute to bone loss, predisposing you to osteoporosis later in life. Strength training keeps bones healthy, slowing bone loss.

SmartEr BaBy 

Research suggests that language skills in children tested at age five are superior in children whose mothers had exercised throughout pregnancy, as opposed to those whose mothers did not exercise while pregnant. The following table provides a more complete listing of the benefits.