Study shows benefits of strength training during pregnancy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A study released in the latest issue of the National Strength & Conditioning Association's (NSCA) Strength and Conditioning Journal shows just how beneficial resistance training during pregnancy can be for both the expectant mother and her baby.

The study looks at some clear and easy safety factors to ensure both mother and baby are getting the most out of their workout.

"The prevailing attitude towards expecting mothers in our culture has always been that they should avoid strenuous activity or that lifting heavy loads may somehow harm the baby," states the NSCA's Honolulu based Hawai'I State Director, Jt Netterville. "Over the past decade or so, we've started seeing more and more clinical evidence of just how positive exercise and resistance training in particular can be for both mother and baby."

According to the article, regular strength training (3 to 5 times per week) has been linked directly to a decreased risk of premature labor and even reduced incidence of cesarean delivery.

Additionally, in studies concerning recovery times and hospital stays, both are cut short in those women who strength train regularly.

"When you look at the benefits to a mother's body," states Jt, "it's amazing to see just how much a few hours a week can relieve her of her persistent back pain and the long recovery times that so often occur with pregnancy. There's another direct correlation between Mom's activity level during pregnancy and how quickly she can get herself back in shape after she's had her baby."

The paper by Brad Schoenfeld MSc, CSCS of Lehman College in New York goes on to detail how strength training can reduce the occurrence of gestational diabetes (GDM). Jt points out the importance of this as, "mother's who develop gestational diabetes are in a bit of a double jeopardy situation. First off by developing GDM you've dramatically increased your own risk of developing full on diabetes postpartum.

On top of that, children born to mothers with GDM are at a significantly increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes themselves. With 1 out of 10 expectant mothers developing GDM, it is the most common medical complication associated with childbirth. By exercising regularly during pregnancy, you actually reduce your risk of developing GDM by almost 60%."

Other benefits detailed by the paper include a 54% reduction in the risk of preeclampsia (a pregnancy related disorder that can lead to hyper tension, edema and seizure), a decrease in the occurrence and severity of depression in expecting mothers and improved fetal development. "When you look at children who were born to mothers who exercised the minimum of 3x-5x per week the children were not only longer, but had increased lean mass versus children born to mothers who did not exercise, " notes Jt. "In addition to the physical attributes, longer term studies have shown that children of mothers who exercised vigorously throughout pregnancy exhibited better discipline, heightened attentiveness and increased neuro development by age 5 as compared to the control subjects."

With all the benefits of exercise, it's still important to make sure Mom is safe during her training. Pregnant women are most susceptible to overheating during exercise. Jt advises how to safe guard against that. "The two things to look are environment and exertion level. Make sure Mom is in a climate controlled environment. It's so much fun to exercise outside here in Hawai'i, but we need to make sure that for the duration of the pregnancy, Mom has access to a climate controlled gym or studio. As far as intensity goes, use a simple talk test. As long as Mom can carry on a reasonable conversation during exercise she's ok. It's when she loses that ability that she's pushing too hard. My best advice is to first off get our doctor's clearance for exercise.

Then seek out a trainer or coach who has specific credentials for pre/post natal training. There's a lot that goes into programming for an expectant mother, but when it's all said and done, she really does need to be out there lifting for herself and for her baby."

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.