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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise

A photo by Lea-Ann Ellison caused a lot of controversy and sparked the debate should women continue to exercise during pregnancy and is it safe.  In many articles Lea-Ann Ellison was heavily criticised and called "selfish" for putting her baby in danger. 

In response to harsh critics, Lea took to her Facebook fan page writing: " I hope to inspire other ladies to be healthy and fit while pregnant and after. If you don't like it, sit your ass on a couch and eat a donut".

"I know for me, that keeping strong and fit during pregnancy, and eating a diet full of fresh organic food has been key to my success in gaining my figure back. And no sugar! Sugar will keep a mommy tummy on a lady forever".

"Five days before Skyler was born, I completed 40 pull ups without assistance" adding that she did have to decrease her weight and scale back on her workouts.

Lea-Ann is not the only person exercising while pregnant. Kelly Rowland and Jessica Ennis to name a few have been very open about exercising during their pregnancy.

Follow Ashley Horner on Instagram for exercise tips during pregnancy! 

Previously, pregnancy signalled the end of a woman's exercise program but nowadays exercise is not only considered safe but beneficial. Your primary goal during pregnancy is maintenance. You should not be setting new goals. Those four to six a week intense exercise programs will be replaced by two or three light workouts per week.

Nicole Crawford speaks about the benefits of cross fit and weight lifting for her third pregnancy. In summary the three benefits she listed were:

1.Mental Toughness- strength training helps build confidence in your body and your body's ability.
2.Decreased Pain and Pregnancy Discomfort- Prevents Back Pain
3.Benefits During Labour- improves physical stamina

Bodybuilding lists the advantages of working out when pregnant:-

  • Fewer problems experienced during childbirth
  • Enhanced post natal recovery
  • Lower incidence of backaches and less severe headaches
  • Enhanced body image
  • Feelings of wellbeing and happiness, and a positive self image
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased aerobic capacity
  • Better circulation of blood to the extremities
  • Greater muscle strength and coordination, which helps with adjusting to increased bodyweight and changes in balance.
  • Pregnancy-related constipation avoidance
When to Start?

It is recommended that if you have never worked out before, the best time to start is during your second trimester. The various hormonal changes that begin during the first time semester often leads to nausea. If you have previously been lifting weights prior to pregnancy you will need to scale back on the weights that you lift. 

When to Stop

This a grey area. Many women continue to exercise up until a couple of days before delivery. Others find by the sixth or seventh month a combination of fatigue and lower back stress necessitates they stop exercising. 

What exercises?

In a book I was reading "Body Fitness for Women" they have a Moms-To-Be Program. However, it recommends that you check with your doctor before following the exercise program.

Try 2 to 3 rounds of 12-15 reps

Leg Extensions- much safer lower body exercise to perform while pregnant as it doesn't produce the same blood pressure build up and don't put stress on the lower abdomen like a leg press.

Seated Leg Curls- The advantage of the seated leg curl is that you can use it right up until you stop training unlike lying leg curls which will quickly become uncomfortable as the baby grows.

Pulldowns- Do not pull the bar behind your head.

Incline Chest Press- Incline press are recommended over flat press as it puts less pressure on the developing foetus. Even the incline bench will become difficult as time goes on.

Shoulder Presses

Tricep Pushdowns-later in the pregnancy this exercise may become difficult.

Seated Dumbbell Curls

What to avoid?

  • ballistic movements
  • exercises with legs locked straight
  • hyperextensions of the spine
  • stretches that stress the lower back
  • exercises that risk hyperextension of the joints- pregnancy causes increase of the hormone relaxin. This hormone allows the hip joints to become more flexible this allowing delivery of the baby. Every joint is affected to a degree not just the hip joints. It is recommended as the pregnancy progresses to avoid exercises that greatly increase blood flow- squats, bent over rows, deadlifts.
  • Your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute- a significantly elevated body temperature can cause foetal damage. The most vulnerable time is the first trimester. To counter any potential problems drink plenty of water before, during and after training. Avoid training in hot humid environments and stop often during the session to stabilise temperature
  • Avoid all supine (facing upwards) movement from the program.
Post Pregnancy Exercise

  1. Body Fitness for Women warns that the hormone relaxin is still in the body post pregnancy so the connective tissue surrounding the joints is still overly flexible. Perform all movements in a slow and controlled manner. 
  2. Your goal is to ease back into training. Pregnancy places an incredible demand on the body. It takes a couple of months to get back to peak efficiency.
  3. For the first couple of months weight train with 60-70% of the maximum you can lift. Choose light dumbbells to start.

So rather than stop completely, continue on training, using suggested modifications and reap the benefits.