By Nina Clark – CSCS, RYT
Despite recommendations for pregnant women to rest, modern research has shown that moderate exercise is greatly beneficial to the health of the pregnant woman and to the fetus. The ACOG issued recommendations for exercise during pregnancy that endorsed aerobic exercise since it is the safest form. In 1994 and 2002, the ACOG revised their original guidelines that continue to endorse most aerobic exercise during pregnancy.
There is still minimal research available on the affects of exercise on pregnant women and the baby. Nevertheless, current research has shown that regular exercise at moderate to somewhat hard levels of intensity during pregnancy has a positive effect on the mother’s health. This includes reduced fat deposition and retention, reducing the risk for developing gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension, shorter and less complicated labors, higher energy levels during and after pregnancy, greater tolerance of the physiological and psychological stresses of pregnancy, fewer physical complaints, and a quicker postpartum recovery. Exercise has also been shown to improve the health of the fetus; mothers who have exercised throughout pregnancy have higher Apgar scores and healthier newborn body weights (Barakat, 2009).
The mode or type of exercise depends on the women and her previous fitness/ physical activity regiment. It is recommended to use machines and refrain from using dumb bells. Machines are more stable and minimize the risk of musculoskeletal injuries or hitting the woman’s abdomen. Swimming has also been shown to have resistance training benefits do to the resistance of the water. Furthermore, swimming is highly beneficial due to the increase in blood volume. The increase in blood volume is due to the redistribution of extravascular fluid into vascular space when the body is immersed in water. Immersion is also ideal for dissipating the increases in temperature from an increase in activity. Furthermore, as Artal and O’Tool state, “ No adverse effects on the fetus have been reported to occur during water exercise in pregnancy” (Artal and O’Tool, 2003). This is an important point to make because most of the fear of exercising derives from the misconception that all exercise is harmful to the fetus. It also a great option for a mother who was previously sedentary or did little physical activity because of the buoyancy of the water will relieve the pain on her joints.
Cardiovascular adaptations during pregnancy are most well researched and most commonly reached. A woman’s cardiac out put can increase by mid-pregnancy by 30-50% of what it was pre-pregnancy. Posture can greatly affect the cardiovascular system and needs to be considered when prescribing specific exercises. After the first trimester the supine position will result in relative blockage of venous return, which decreases cardiac out put. For this reason supine position should be avoided as much as possible when resting exercising. Motionless standing should also be avoided whenever possible. Motionless standing is associated with a significant decrease in cardiac out put. The previous cardiovascular adaptations are a few of the main cardiovascular changes that occur during pregnancy and need to be monitored.
It is important to be cautious and mindful when training while pregnant.
To begin a exercise/ strength training regimen it is recommended that you seek out professional assistance. Working with a Personal Trainer who has experience in Pre/Post Natal Training is important or insure you and your baby’s safety.