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Resistance Is Not Futile: Keep Strength Training During Pregnancy

strengthtrainingpregnancyWorkouts during pregnancy are of course beneficial to both mom and baby. Now, a study specifically on resistance training during the first trimester has shown benefits for both parties, with no increased risk of complications during pregnancy. Sweet!

The study, conducted by Michigan State University in partnership with Anytime Fitness and AnytimeHealth.com, focused on women who had given birth, the majority of whom performed resistance training an average of 2.9 days per week for 30 minutes a session using what’s called the F.I.T.T. principle: focus on frequency, intensity, time and exercise type—during the first trimester. The women—who used free weights and machines—were similar to those who did not lift weights in respect to maternal weight gain, gestational age at delivery, length of infant at birth and birth weight.

“We know aerobic activity has been shown to improve the health of mother and child during pregnancy and with this new research, we can now say that resistance training can be beneficial as well during the first trimester,” said Michigan State University Kinesiology Professor, Dr. Jim Pivarnik. “These preliminary results suggest that not only is this type of exercise safe, but the study also found that weight lifting may help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes pregnancy, induced hypertension and weight control, since the women in the study who resistance trained had a lower pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI).”

F.I.T.T. Principles

The F.I.T.T. principle for strength training is an easy way for expectant mothers to begin to improve their muscular strength and endurance, and includes four easy steps to a healthier lifestyle. Moms-to-be should remember to also include aerobic activity during the week.

Frequency: 3 days a week

Intensity: Low amount of weights and higher repetitions (around 12 to 15)

Time: 20 to 30 minutes a session

Type: Free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or kettlebells

Tips for Prenatal Exercise

The researchers recommend the following tips for pregnant women to stay motivated and to make exercise more enjoyable.

  • Start slow and build up to your goal.
  • Work out with a friend or a group of friends. Bring your stroller if you need to!
  • Find a group exercise class—many options, such as yoga, Pilates or Zumba, will improve both cardio and muscular strength.
  • Sneak physical activity into daily life by taking a 10-minute walk at lunch or during breaks.
  • Find exercises to do at home with resistance bands, so you can work out while the kids are napping.

Women should, of course, always talk to their health care providers before doing any exercise, and it’s also important to always listen to your body, especially when you’re exercising for two.

Did you keep doing strength training during pregnancy? —Erin

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