Exercise & Pregnancy

I have been asked  to address the subject of exercise and pregnancy. The truth is, I do not have anything brilliant to say. There are many medical and professional organizations who have outlined exercise prescription during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some of the advice becomes well known and widely accepted – while other pieces of advice seem to be overlooked.

What we know

We know that the supine (back down, face up) position is not safe after the first trimester – the risk of venous obstruction is too great. What does that mean? The fetus will not be fed and nourished.

We know that pregnant women should not perform the Valsalva maneuver. An instructor or trainer will not name this as the next exercise to perform. It is something that individuals do unconsciously – and sometimes consciously – during exercise. Oversimplified, it is holding your breathe under strain – and this is common during isometric exercises such as planks or wall sits. To learn more about the Valsalva maneuver, click here.

We know that pregnant women should avoid contact sports, or any any activity that could cause loss of balance or trauma to the mother or fetus.

Often overlooked

There are numerous precautions regarding exercise and pregnancy that are too often overlooked.

For example, the thermoregulatory control. Pregnant women need an increased awareness of the ambient air temperature, humidity, etc. because the pregnant body is less efficient at temperature control.

High-intensity exercise should be avoided. In part because of the less efficient thermoregulation. In part because of the stress it puts on the mothers cardiorespiratory system. If it is putting stress on mom, it is putting stress on baby!

Pregnant women tend to have greater ligament elasticity – a result of the change in hormones (just like females have different elasticity during different portions of their cycles). This increases the risk of injury, such as hyperextension of the joint.

Pregnant women must be cautious with weight- and load-bearing exercise. This could include anything from running and jumping to squatting and overhead pressing. Because the weight distribution is different, there is added stress to the spine (e.g.,common to experience lower back pain). If not careful, exercises could increase lumbar lordosis and cause temporary or long-term conditions.

The basics

Here are the guiding principles regarding exercise during pregnancy:

photo

The bottomline

If you have been active for months and years leading up to pregnancy – then you can maintain a much higher activity and intensity level than a woman who has not. There are certain positions that all pregnant woman should avoid – not because pregnancy is an illness, but for the safety and health of the unborn child. Some exercises are dangerous and extremely difficult to perform correctly when you have a baby belly!

NOTE: This is not intended to be an exhaustive article. I have linked to some key resources below. If you are pregnant, always talk to your doctor and consider working with a qualified fitness professional. Be informed. Be smart. And keep you and your baby safe!

Like what you read? Please comment and share below and visit me at Better By Becca.

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1724598/pdf/v037p00006.pdf

http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/exerciseduringpregnancy.pdf

ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Edition 8

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2010). Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance (7th Ed.). Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.

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Take a second glance: Images of female athletes

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Howard Schatz’s images of female athletes have re-emerged and gone viral. The images – intending to display the varying array of body types – are bothersome to me. Perhaps because of my own insecurities. But also because I know the way that our minds work: we compare.

Check out both images and the Huffington Post article here.

Let me lead you through a second glance.

I am an athlete

No, I do not train for a sport, but I am an athlete – training for life. I immediately scanned the sports – looking for those athletes that I could most relate with and I compared my body to theirs. I am often asked if I am a swimmer – so I scanned for the swimmers and compared my shoulders, my legs, and my torso to theirs. Nope, I do not look like them. While I am not in ‘ peak physical condition’ as the disclaimer says these athletes are, I cannot help but compare. That is what we do! We compare. We judge (we know we shouldn’t but we do). And we ultimately beat ourselves up. I train so hard, and dang!

Now, I did not beat myself up. I could see the flaws in the images…so it made it easy for me to keep from traveling down that dangerous slope of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

I will share one significant flaw – hopefully to keep you from seeing this as a true representation and to prevent you from allowing yourself to compare and spiral into a dangerous place of despair.

The images are not to scale

Unfortunately – and I noticed this almost immediately – the photos are not to scale. The images are presented in a manner that inherently leads us to compare the athletes to one another. Yet, the 5’5″ golfer stands taller than the 5’8.5″ bodybuilder.

It is a trick!

Minor? Maybe. But tricky, tricky, tricky!

That is just one example, if you look at the heights of these athletes, that screams of the deception.

The bottomline

The intentions are good. And yes, the bodies of athletes vary significantly. All human bodies vary significantly. But I feel that the presentation is flawed and deceiving.

I have heard several clients and friends talking about this ‘artwork.’ Some are disappointed by the lack of clothing. Some are truly amazed by the differences.

Me? I am disappointed and bothered.

What do YOU think and feel about these images?

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Want a flat belly? Do more squats

Requests seem to come to me in cycles. One person mentioned wanting to do more abs and earn a flatter, thinner midsection and now everyone is mentioning this to me. My latest automatic response is that we should do more squats.

Many have said, “I think I should do more abs, don’t you?”

No. I don’t.

Reason 1: Ab exercises burn very few calories.

In order to burn fat and lose weight – whether it be in your belly, thighs, or butt – you need to burn calories. Traditional ab exercises burn very few calories in essence because they focus on small muscles. If anything, if you only focus on abs, your midsection may grow – because you DO build muscle.

Reason 2: Core conditioning is built into every workout.

At least it is built into every one of my workouts (I cannot say the same of all workouts and trainers out there). If you have every worked with me, you have heard me talk about this. I build core training and conditioning into the workout – more efficient and functional.

Why squats?

Squats are one of the biggest calorie burners – at least for the general exerciser. Squats require your large leg and butt muscles to work – making them a huge calorie burner. And you need to burn calories to burn fat! And because you cannot spot reduce for weight loss, you want to burn more calories to reduce the girth of your midsection.

Truth be told: Abs are made in the kitchen

You may have heard this, and it is true. Abs are made in the kitchen – even moreso for women. A large portion of midsection weight can be attributed to what you put in your mouth. While another portion of this is related to hormones (a woman in a particular time of fertility will have more fat, protecting the womb as a safe home for a fetus), eating what I refer to as CRAP will find itself attached to your midsection (as well as other areas).

Carbonated drinks
Refined grains and sugars
Artificial flavors
Processed foods

The bottomline

Doing more ab exercises will not lead to a flatter belly. I know, this is not necessarily intuitive, but trust me! Have I ever led you wrong?

Eat well and burn more calories – through strength training and effective aerobic exercise.

Doing all the right things and not getting the results you desire? Let’s chat and fine-tune your plan.

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