Even Stronger Moms-To-Be

August 31st, 2011 | By Marjie No Comments

by Kirk McAlpin, graduate assistant with University of Georgia Public Affairs

Despite decades of doctors’ reluctance to recommend weight training to pregnant women, a new University of Georgia study has found that a supervised, low-to-moderate intensity program is safe and beneficial.

The research, published in the current edition of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, measured progression in the amount of weight used, changes in resting blood pressure and potential adverse side effects in pregnant women. After a total of 618 exercise sessions, none of the pregnant women in the study experienced a musculoskeletal injury.

“Doctors often have been unwilling to prescribe weightlifting, in part because there was little evidence that it is safe and effective,” said Patrick O’Connor, a researcher in the department of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education. “I think that the appropriate conclusion of this study is that the adoption of a supervised, low-to-moderate intensity weight lifting exercise program can be safe for women with a low-risk pregnancy. “

“The data shows women can increase their strength even though they are pregnant and have never done weight training before,” O’Connor said. “And their body is changing over the 12-week period as the baby grows. The one thing you have to be a little careful about is dizziness,” he added.  Rates of dizziness went down after the first few workouts, as the women learned to lift weights while maintaining proper breathing techniques for exercise.

The researchers also monitored blood pressure over the course of the study. People often experience a small reduction in blood pressure immediately after a workout, but the researchers found no change in the pregnant women after each individual session or after the entire 12-week program. “So the weight-training program was neither good nor bad for blood pressure,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor collaborated with Melanie Poudevigne, now the director of health and fitness management in the department of natural sciences at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA. O’Connor said that the research could not have been completed without the support of forward-thinking physicians. The researchers worked in conjunction with obstetricians and midwives in Athens, GA. This study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

If you are pregnant and want to adopt safe weight lifting practices into your fitness routine, consult your obstetrician beforebeginning any weight training exercise. You doctor can provide guidance and even specific exercises for you. But as you have read here, O’Connor’s research shows that weight training during pregnancy can be safe and beneficial.

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