Exercise and Personal Training During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
Recently, I was at the gym and an extremely pregnant friend of mine and Pilates instructor squatted away at the hack squat machine. She is in great shape and goes to the gym almost every day.
One by one, what seemed like everyone in the gym went up to me and asked me about my friend who was 9 months pregnant and squatting with weights.
“Should she be doing that?”
“Isn’t it time for your friend to stop exercising?”
Even other trainers said to me, “I know she is in good shape and should be exercising but her big belly makes me nervous.”
“Is that safe for the baby?”
There are so many myths about pregnancy and exercise. The truth is that pregnant women should exercise, and there are benefits for the mother and the baby. My friend had a very easy birth to a wonderful baby girl and had a perfectly flat stomach three months after childbirth. Yes, it was OK for her to be at the hack squat machine at 9 months pregnant.
Let’s look at some myths about exercise and pregnancy that date back to the middle ages. I can’t believe that we still mention them in this modern age.
1. Exercise can cause miscarriage. This is the number one fear and totally not true in a healthy pregnancy. The reason most miscarriages occur is due to a genetic defect of the fetus. Plain and simple the wrong combination of sperm and egg could not have made a viable baby. In the cases where miscarriage is caused by other factors, exercise on a regular basis is said to help PREVENT miscarriage.
2. Exercise is too stressful for pregnant women. This was considered a fact until about 30 years ago. But now we know that is a total myth. It doesn’t even make any sense. Of course there are no pregnant Ironman competitors, but this is because pregnancy does require a lot of the body’s resources. Pregnancy is a time to stay active within reason.
3. Exercise during pregnancy hurts the fetus. Total myth! Not true at all. The fact is that active, exercising moms have healthier babies. Babies born to exercising moms have lower body fat levels, and the latest research suggests exercising moms give birth to babies with more developed brains and higher IQs.
4. Exercising pregnant women care about their looks more than their babies. This is complete sexist rhetoric. Of course pregnant women who work out look better after giving birth. They also have easier childbirths, which means less stress for baby, and if mom is healthy she can take better care of the baby! Working out during pregnancy is healthy, not selfish.
5. You can get hurt more easily while working out when are pregnant. Though this is actually true, too often this rationalization is used to dissuade women from exercising while pregnant. What you do need to know is there are many precautions that you need to take when working out while pregnant. The general precautions for exercise during pregnancy are: nothing too vigorous, no workouts longer than an hour, and no exercises preformed on flat on your stomach or your back. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water when exercising, and be super careful when stretching. One word of caution: Every pregnancy is different, there are a few kinds of pregnancies where exercise IS strictly forbidden. These are special situations that require a doctor’s care and guidance.
Now, the question is: what exercise do you do when you are pregnant?
In terms of classes, there are plenty of great ones for pregnant women. I recommend pre- and post-natal yoga, restorative yoga, Pilates, or even zumba. Stay away from kick boxing and hot yoga during this time.
But if you want the best advice on what is safe or good to do when choosing an exercise program for pregnancy, get a personal trainer who is certified in pre- and post-natal exercise. Like any other person who helps you with your health, you will need someone with the right qualifications. There are many great trainers both male and female who have pre- and post-natal certification.
A trainer who is certified to train women during pregnancy or after the birth of their child has taken the time to get educated about the special considerations that must be taken into account.
What will not help you is a trainer with just a lot of experience, who does not have this kind of certification.
Finally, pick someone you feel comfortable with and who feels comfortable with you. This will make working together easier for both of you. The trainer should not baby you, but he or she should not push you too hard either. Prenatal exercise should feel like work, but not too difficult — somewhere in the middle of your minimum and maximum capacity for exertion.
Both mom and baby will enjoy the benefits of good health through exercise!