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Weight lifting during pregnancy

Updated: May 29, 2021

Disclaimer (At any point during a pregnancy always consult your doctors and other medical professionals): Pregnancy is a time of transformation for your body. Exercise can be a critical part of your new routine and help with anything from aches and pains to powering through labor. Knowing what types of exercises are safe is key to staying injury-free and keeping you and your baby healthy throughout the pregnancy.

Do you like lifting weights? Well, resistance training can be a part of your workout plan — if you do it the right way. Here’s more on how much you might lift, what exercises to do and which to avoid, and what questions you should ask your doctor.

Weight training during pregnancy can be a great partner to other types of moderate exercise, like walking or swimming. Lifting weights strengthens muscles throughout the entire body and can help you feel better on the inside and out. Many researchers have looked at a variety of studies on weight-bearing exercise and pregnant women and published their findings in many reports and magazines like the Strength and Conditioning Journal. Although the research is a bit older (from 2011), it still applies — and is comprehensive.

Researchers found that benefits include:

  • Better weight management. People who regularly exercise in pregnancy may gain 20 percent less weight than their less active counterparts.

  • Lower risk of gestational diabetes (GDM). People who exercise during pregnancy may also reduce their chances of developing GDM by up to 59 percent.

  • Lower risk of preeclampsia. Light exercise may reduce the incidence of preeclampsia by 24 percent. Vigorous exercise, on the other hand, may reduce it by as much as 54 percent.

  • Improved body image. Other studies noted in the 2011 research suggest that people who exercise throughout pregnancy often report a better self-image. Researchers found that sedentary folks often report feeling “fat” or “unattractive.” People who exercise 90 minutes a week or more have a “significantly” more positive body image.

  • Better mood. Along with this, feelings about body image, hormonal changes, and other shifts make pregnancy a prime time for depression. Exercise may mitigate this by releasing endorphins, which are powerful neurotransmitters that relieve pain and stress.

  • Protects against lower back pain. Up to 76 percent of pregnant women reported having back pain at some point during their pregnancies. Staying active — particularly focusing on the muscles in the trunk and core — may maintain better back health.

  • Helps with baby’s development. Babies of people who exercise regularly tend to be longer and leaner. Some studies show that resistance training, in particular, may be especially good in this regard. Beyond that, babies born to those who exercised vigorously during pregnancy actually showed “heightened attentiveness and discipline” when compared to controls.

  • Helps you power through labor. Along with a lower chance of cesarean delivery and preterm labor, people who do resistance training tend to have shorter active labors.

Overall, researchers have found that exercise has the power to make pregnancy and delivery a bit easier with fewer complications.

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