Pregnancy Workout Myths Busted

How many times have pregnant women (who were due in approximately 5-6 months) told to restrict or completely avoid exercising and working out? MANY! But it’s an urban myth, and the sole purpose for scripting this article is to bust myths related to working out during pregnancy and help all moms out there sleep better. 

Before you read further, you should know that exercising and participating in physical fitness activities is not just 'okay' during pregnancy, but it also has a very significant and positive influence during the pregnancy for both the baby and mother.

According to Laura Riley, a spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it's essential for a mother to keep physical active while expecting. She also stated that there are numerous benefits associated with pregnancy workouts as they effectively enhance the outcome of the pregnancy, they also shorten labor, which makes exercising during pregnancy beneficial for the mother as well as the baby.

Even though there has been increasing scientific evidence indicating the importance of exercise during pregnancy, urban myths still find an audience willing to believe in them. Thanks to the various self-contradictory posts all over the internet, an expectant mother doesn't know what's safe and what's not, rendering them confused and misguided. Don’t you worry, we're here to offer a helping hand.

The Truth

Myths need to be busted in order for the truth to be heard. We targeted a list of myths that several top fitness and medical experts have encountered and debunked. We want to set things straight on what you can do during a pregnancy working out.

However, it is recommended that you never strain yourself and accidentally cause complications; a doctor’s consultation prior to working out is compulsory. For some women, exercising isn't beneficial while they are expecting as there are always exceptions and specific conditions. And without much ado, here’s a list of the top 7 myths that we’re busting today -

7 Never Let Your Heart Rate Exceed  

One of the most popular myths spread through outdated pregnancy books and careless gym trainees is the heart rate myth. Pregnant women don't have an ideal number regarding their target heart rates. There's no concrete proof linkg heart rate and pregnancy in any study. In fact, ACOG never mentions a ‘target heart rate’ concept, their research team found it to be quite irrelevant. 

ACOG issued an article with newly refined guidelines regarding working out during pregnancy. Accordingly, they formulated a new parameter which can be used as a guide or an indicator known as the RPE or rate of perceived exertion. However, RPE isn’t exactly a new concept, it was used in 1982 to monitor exertion levels and to regulate them to a moderate level. 

Exceeding a heart rate of 130 is just a myth

The moderate level mentioned here is one where a bare minimum is comfortably achieved by the pregnant woman, but a definite number can't be set in stone due to the fact that not every pregnant woman has the same moderate level; it differs from person to person. A moderate level for you could either be extremely easy to achieve for some one else or extremely hard. The recommendation is that you listen to your own body! 

6 Avoid Abdominal Exercises 

Mommies to be, don't be fooled by these false assumptions. According to many experts, abdominal exercises offer several health advantages for both the mother and the baby. There has been recent evidence suggesting that abdominal exercises are not only safe, but offer advantages as well. 

The abdominal region of the human body, rather, your entire body core inclusive of the pelvic floor, plays an integral role during delivery. In order to provide your core with the energy and strength needed during labor, you should be working your core throughout your pregnancy. It’ll not only help you ease the pain you experience during pregnancy, but also helps in the smooth flow of labor and delivery. 

Continual exercise will also help you transition smoothly to recovery. Yes, abdominal exercises will help you get rid of the post-pregnancy belly smoothly. According to WebMD, core strengthening is not only a safe exercise for expectant mothers, but a beneficial one as well.

This is good news for mothers who've spent time working on their abs prior to pregnancy

Sit-ups are basic exercises you shouldn’t worry about. They form the foundation of any workout plan because they're basic warm-up exercises. If you're worried about the baby, your body will ensure that the conditions surrounding the baby are shock-proof and secure to the maximum extent. So feel free to bend your waist. As you progress into the pregnancy around the second and third trimester, avoid laying flat on your back as much as you can. 

Alternatively, you can shift your focus to strengthening your stabilization muscles through abdominal exercises and activities where you're practicing push ups, planks, cables or bands incorporated into your chops, and pelvic tilts. Apart from these, you can also practice yoga, which is an extremely powerful tool that helps strengthen your body and improves your mental well-being.

Go ahead and bend that waist line

As these exercises affect your body directly, these will also assist in overcoming any posture problems you might have faced during pregnancy and help you regain your former shape. However, for those who are expecting, particularly in the first trimester, you should restrict workout and exercises which you have to do on your back. 

The alternative exercises you can practice are gentle seated belly breathing, standing pelvic tilts, tightening your abs, holding, then releasing to ensure the strengthening of your abdominal muscles.

5 No Running While Pregnant

This myth has brought down the hopes of many aspiring athletes who fell for the lie and saw their young careers end abruptly. As per experts, running is safe for you and your baby as long as there is no strain felt on your legs and you feel okay. Government-funded organizations have mentioned in their literature that if the mother is accustomed to running prior to pregnancy, she can continue running with the same dedication as long as there's no exertion.

How will you know if you're exerting yourself? It’s quite simple; all you have to do is listen to your body. If your body feels weird prior to and while working out, stop the activity right away and don’t continue. If you are an ambitious person, pregnancy isn’t a good time to strive too hard or look to break and establish new performance records. 

The doctor says it's okay to run

As you progress into the later stages of your pregnancy, your body’s ability to continue to perform physical activities will become harder with each passing week. For this reason the aforementioned rule applies for any trimester in pregnancy. You can consult your doctor and your trainer in order to formulate an ideal exercise plan that is in line with any particular precautions that you might have.

4 Pregnancy Isn't the Time to Start Working Out

If you were never passionate about exercising before pregnancy, now isn't exactly the right time to jump into your fitness shoes and turn into a fitness freak. However, you don't just necessarily have to sit on a couch all day either, you can look into various exercises which don't tire you, but keep busy. 

Instead of turning into an easily manipulated fitness freak, you can always be a sensible fitness woman. How do you get there? It involves doing simple physical activities like a daily walk or going for a swim which not only has a significant positive influence on your pregnancy, but also helps you and your baby feel better. It keeps you rejuvenated and fresh, quite opposite to the regular fatigue of pregnancy, while simultaneously offering you better sleep.

It's safe to start exercising during pregnancy provided you start slow to begin with. Ten minutes per day would be ideal, and later in the coming months you can increment it to two 10 minute sessions per day, and then gradually move it to 15 minutes. You can go up to any level you desire as long as you don’t physically exert yourself as per ACOG’s guidelines.

You can start exercising during pregnancy, just don't go hard on yourself

If you observe any signs of pain while exercising, you should stop exercising for a few weeks and possibly until after you deliver the baby. Many women follow this even when they aren’t pregnant. It's one of those myths you fall for because you don't want to injure yourself. While spotting, signs of pain, headache, nausea, and dizziness are all reasons to stop your exercise session at that point, they aren’t reasons for you to give up on exercise as a whole forever. 

Consult your physician or doctor regarding the issue and tell them exactly what you felt and what exercise you were doing which led to the pain, the duration of the pain and the degree of pain. The advice they offer would be ideal and can determine whether you should continue or discontinue that particular exercise.

Exercise your body with light exercises during pregnancy

How will you know when to stop exercising and consult your doctor for further advice? That’s what we're here for, we have generated a list of all probable events that women all over the world should consider as a warning sign to stop a particular exercise.

The set of warning signals are:

3 No Risk of Injuries Through Physical Activity

This deals with the other side of the coin, an entirely different point of view, 'the road less traveled' if you will. We've been discussing how exercising will help pregnancy and benefit both the mother and the child, however, there is also the negative influence of pregnancy on physical health. 

While expecting, during the first trimester, your body synthesizes a hormone known as progesterone. This isn’t just your regular protein, this is a protein for relaxing your body’s bone and muscles. Relaxing lubricates the joints all over to ensure a smooth labor. However, if the joints and muscles relax a little too much, the risk of developing of injuries to your joints increases significantly.

Mild-medium exercises are encouraged when you're pregnant. However, you might want to avoid rigorous physical activities which heavily incorporate deep muscle or joint movements like deep lunges, squats, and other such activities.

It is possible to hurt yourself accidentally

Apart from the rigorous activities, the flexibility aspect of any workout should also be considered. The human body has a fixed range of rotation, although you might experience a greater range of motion while expecting, it isn't beneficial to over-stretch your joints as it could lead to injuries. The more flexibility is involved, the greater the chances of an injury. 

To avoid such issues or any development of injuries, it's recommended that you restrict your rotational range to your pre-pregnancy self. Exercising is good, but touching your toes or going further is bad. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

2 Don’t Exercise Too Much While Pregnant

The myth associated with this says that over exercising causes your body to pull nutrients away from your baby in order to supply what your body needs, which in turn hinders the proper growth of the baby. Even though many doctors and trainers suggest you don't to take that extra step, it's not because of this reason. This is a clear example of how the reasoning for a fact can be misinterpreted.

You should put your trust in nature and its way of going about things. Your baby's needs are never compromised when you work out. Even though your body might experience a dip in your own nutrients, your baby's needs will always be fulfilled first, it's the nature of pregnancy.

Your baby benefits from your physical activity

An efficient way to avoid the development of any related issues is by maintaining a consistent and moderate blood sugar level. This can be achieved through consumption of smaller, more frequent meals. You'll be able to give birth to leaner and physically well-developed babies. 

1 Heavy Weight Puts Stress on Your Joints

Although this is a less known myth, it's still misguiding a small group of women. Choosing an ideal exercise that will physically benefit your body isn't rocket science. But physical activities which demand proper balance like biking or skiing, or sports which demand constant contact with other players like football or rugby are to be avoided when you're expecting.

The reason for this is quite simple, around the fourth month mark in your pregnancy, you'll notice that maintaining your balance requires effort. Your body will attain a state of imbalance and discomfort due to laziness and lack of physical activity. If your body is in an unstable position, any exercise that requires balance will do more harm than good.

Many trainers tell their pregnant clients to avoid lifting weights as it causes immense pain. That's true, however, with a few modifications you'll be able to lift weights safely while pregnant. During the exercise, ensure that you're not holding your breath, trying too hard, and not lifting a weight that makes you hunch too low. 

Lift weights, but watch your posture

As you progress in your pregnancy, approximately around the first trimester, avoid committing to any physical activity which you have to perform while laying on your back. As an alternative, you can do the same exercises on an incline bench.

As of now there are numerous beliefs and rumors out there which crave for an audience of innocent pregnant women. Most of these myths originated from pregnancy books that are decades old and no longer relevant, some of these myths originated as old wives' tales, which are often misunderstood. If you can overcome the confusion and several restrictions placed on women during pregnancy, you will have a  healthy pregnancy and newborn.

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