By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S
When you start to have a muffin in the oven, that cute ‘thing’ in your belly that resembles an emerging alien more than a baby, also known as pregnant, should you exercise? How hard? How often? Why? What are the risks and benefits? This article is to discuss this topic.
First of all, lots of human and animal studies show that women who exercise while pregnant will have children with more developed brains (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26256238). The cognitive development of the child’s brain is improved with a more active carrier, (that’s you mom).
So, to answer your question right away, it is a resounding YES that you should exercise while pregnant.
Now, to speak on the level of exercise you do, here are my recommendations:
Continue exercise only at the level at which you exercised before pregnancy.
You just found out you are having a cute little baby. You think to yourself you should probably start to exercise and get in shape for the coming months of pregnancy. You will place yourself at a higher risk of a miscarriage or birth complications if you start exercising when you were not before.
Think about it, if you place your body in stress that it’s not used to, you may induce reactions. Your abdominal muscles aren’t ready to brace, or your blood pressure and heart rate cannot handle the stress of exercise while carrying another life.
If you were lifting 5 days a week, doing squats, curls, benching, and the like, then by all means keep doing that. If you only did yoga twice a week and walked, then keep doing that. Don’t pick up MMA all of the sudden. It won’t work out for you.
Avoid activity that has an increased risk of falling and high impact
This one is pretty obvious. Falling hard or creating a constant up and down impact may induce early delivery, miscarriage, or other birthing issues. Do not do down-hill skiing on the double black diamond trail to prove that pregnant women can do anything. We already know you are superwoman. Just be smart.
You can still lift, just know your limits.
Girls, you can still lift weights, and even squat while you’re pregnant, even up to near the end of your pregnancy. However, be aware of your strength limits. If you were able to squat 100kg for 5 sets of 5 before you got knocked up, then you can likely keep doing that, or maybe back off the intensity by 10%. But do not try hitting new PR’s and pushing the limits of your strength while pregnant. Too much stress can increase your risk for infection and getting ill. Just remain consistent from where you were.
You affect your child
Studies show that women who are obese or even overweight during pregnancy cause an increased risk of metabolic syndrome in their children. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15741354)
Look, if you aren’t in shape, you’re going to affect the health and body composition outcome of your children. Yes, if you’re fat, you will likely MAKE your child fat, even if that’s not their choice.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by insulin resistance, lowered energy, and worse nutrient partitioning. This literally means people with metabolic syndrome gain fat and become unhealthy more easily.
Don’t determine your child’s health for them by being unhealthy yourself. Exercise while you’re pregnant, and buy healthy foods (yeah, that means the expensive stuff). Your future children are worth it.
I say to all the ‘preggers’ out there… Train while you’re pregnant. If you weren’t previously active, try swimming or consult a professional on the best forms of exercise for you. You’re worth it, and your future generations are worth it.
By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S