[This is a guest blog by one of our Athletic Interns, Anthony Williams, an Exercise Science student from NCCU]
Resistance training has been shown to have numerous benefits for women who are pregnant.
However the interpretation of research on maternal exercise is somewhat complicated by the fact that
many studies do not discern between types of physical activity performed (aerobic versus anaerobic).
Some of the newer research on resistance training during pregnancy does suggest that it supplements
and changes the benefits provided by aerobic exercise as well as building muscular strength and
improving functional capacity in a manner that is not possible with aerobics alone. Here I will summarize
a few of the many benefits of resistance training during pregnancy.
- Improved Weight Management
During the childbearing years of 25-34 women experience the most weight gain which can
be accumulated during pregnancy. Research tells us that women who engage in resistance training
while pregnant may gain 20% less weight than a pregnant woman who does not engage in weight
training. Women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were
significantly heavier long term after pregnancy which led them to be more at risk for breast cancer than
women who were physically active.
- Enhanced Body Image
Changes in the body after pregnancy may reduce a woman’s self-body image and her self-
esteem. Many women report feeling fat or they feel like they don’t appeal to their significant other as
much anymore. But studies have found that women who exercised during pregnancy had a significantly
better body image than non-exercisers, a trend that extended into the latter stages of pregnancy. And
who exercised at least 90 minutes a week at moderate intensity were significantly more satisfied with
their bodies throughout the term than low exercisers.
- Easier Labor
Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on multiple indices of labor, with high levels
of resistance training showing a particularly beneficial effect. Women who are physically active during
pregnancy have been shown to have a decreased risk of premature labor and a reduced incidence of
cesarean delivery and shorter hospitalization. A study showed that frequent exercisers experienced a
shorter duration of active labor and a lower incidence of abdominal (6% versus 30%) and vaginal (6%
versus 20%) operative delivery. In addition, there was a reduced incidence of acute fetal stress in the
exercise group as compared with controls.
Maternal fitness is essential to the health and wellness of expectant mothers. Resistance
training, in particular, can provide a plethora of physiological and psychological maternal benefits as well
as helping to improve functional ability throughout the term. By following proper guidelines, pregnant
women can safely engage in a comprehensive resistance training program. Physician’s clearance should
always be obtained to rule out any contraindications before commencing a routine. To derive optimal
benefits, exercises should be carried out in all 3 planes of movement with an emphasis on core stability.
One to 3 sets of 10??15 reps is suggested, taking approximately 2 minutes rest between sets. In the
absence of any complication or contraindication, there appears to be no reason that in most cases training cannot continue until immediately before delivery.