Pregnancy and Training

Over the past 15 to 20 years, research has emerged that has completely reshaped our understanding of prenatal fitness: where regular physical activity during pregnancy was once merely deemed ‘acceptable’, it is now understood to offer a plethora of benefits, and therefore comes highly recommended for women who have been previously active as well as for those who have led a sedentary lifestyle.

Pregnancy is a time of immense physiological and morphological change, and prenatal exercise is a means for expecting women to navigate and manage many of these by improving functional ability throughout term. This is especially true of resistance training.

Why should I exercise?
Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common pregnancy-related complaints, affecting 76% of women. This is in large part attributed to increased lumbar lordotic curvature and altered centre of gravity placing greater stress on the muscles of the lumbar region, the effects of which are exacerbated by an elevated secretion of the hormone relaxin. Multiple studies have found that strengthening core musculature (ie; the muscles that surround and stabilise the trunk) helps to counteract this lumbar stress and improve maternal back health, leading to a significant reduction in the intensity of LBP throughout term.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Additional benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:

• Improved physical fitness and mood
• Promotion of healthy weight gain
• Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
• Managing rectus abdominal diastasis (stomach separation)
• Relieving constipation

How often should I exercise?
The answer to this will vary based on your current exercise tolerance/routine. The ACOG guidelines recommend ‘an exercise program that leads to an eventual goal of moderate-intensity exercise for at least 20-30 minutes per day on most if not all days of the week’. If you have just started to exercise in pregnancy, it is advised you gradually build up to this over a period of time. Overall, the primary consideration when designing a routine is the health of both mother and baby: general training goals should seek to maintain a reasonable level of fitness, with specific protocols based on current fitness level.

What’s the best exercise for me?
These isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s important to find something that is both fun and convenient for you- this will help with consistency. Ideally, training during pregnancy will involve strength, stability and aerobic components.
Static, endurance-based core exercises are highly recommended as they promote back health and trunk stability while minimising stress to the lumbosacral region. This stability work should be carried out in all three planes of movement. While dynamic core exercises such as crunches can also help to improve core strength, these movements tend to become difficult as term progresses and are generally best tolerated during the first trimester. Exercises that develop the glute musculature are also beneficial.

As joints are significantly more lax during pregnancy, a higher repetition range (10 reps or more per set) is recommended using an intensity of less than 70% 1RM. This decreases joint-related stress, and reduces the prospect of injury. These sets should be challenging, however should not progress to the point of absolute muscular fatigue or failure. This way, safe form is always able to be maintained.

Where can I start my pregnancy fitness journey?
BeFit Training Physiotherapy is running twice weekly pre- and post-natal classes. These sessions are led by Chantelle and Georgia, both of whom have an interest in women’s healthy physiotherapy. Classes are from 9:45-10:30am every Tuesday and Thursday, and are programmed to include strength, stability and aerobic work in line with the above evidence/guidelines. Prior to starting training with us, an initial physiotherapy assessment is highly recommended: this way we get to know you and your body- including previous and current injuries- as well as your training goals, so we can work with you during classes to get the most out of your training.

Georgia Smith – BeFit Training Physio Double Bay

Georgia Smith – BeFit Training Physio Double Bay

Georgia Smith is an experienced musculoskeletal physiotherapist based in Double Bay, in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Georgia has successfully treated musculoskeletal and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Georgia specialises in paediatric and womens health rehab based physiotherapy. To book a consultation, click the link below.

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