3 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Pregnancy and Exercise

When it comes to exercising during pregnancy, it turns out that as a society we were wrong about a lot. You likely know people who hold many beliefs that are considered now to be outdated and you may still hold some of them yourself.

As a facility that has many members who will perhaps one day end up pregnant, it’s prudent we reinforce current recommendations and clear up common myths when it comes to keeping the pregnant body fit and healthy!

MYTH #1: If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, you shouldn’t start

This one is probably the most common one you’ll hear, and it may surprise you that it is indeed a myth. While it’s true you shouldn’t start intense and frequent training all at once if you were sedentary pre-pregnancy, starting to exercise and building the habit of moving your body is highly recommended assuming you have been cleared by your physician to do so.

In fact, according to the 2019 Canadian Guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that women who were previously inactive to be physically active throughout pregnancy unless they have specific contraindications.

MYTH #2: Pregnant women should stop lifting weights and only do very light exercise

This is not true! While pregnant people go through many bodily changes and some adjustments may have to be made to accommodate, the pregnant body is still quite resistant and should be moved in a variety of ways.

According to the 2019 Canadian Guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy:

  • Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic exercise and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits.
  • Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 min of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful reductions in pregnancy complications.

MYTH #3: You don’t have to change anything about your exercise regime

While most types of exercise are encouraged, to assume that every activity should get the green light would also be incorrect.

There are several contraindications for moderate-intense exercise that you should discuss with your doctor and in that case, you should follow their specific advice on how to proceed.

For otherwise healthy pregnancies, you should still avoid activities where you are at risk of falling or experiencing impact to the abdomen. Examples of this may include one legged exercises and step ups without any balance support, or even sports like skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking etc.

There is also some evidence to suggest high intensity interval training should also be avoided especially for those with complications and it’s best to review your exercise plans with a medical professional who is well versed in the most updated recommendations.

Gone are the days of not lifting a finger for 9 months out of fear that it will negatively affect your pregnancy. The reality is that the moment you deliver the baby you will be expected to carry strollers out of cars, car seats, or even just carry your child, and so deconditioning yourself entirely for more than half a year isn’t in your best interest.

With the proper guidance, most pregnant individuals can continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy, and it will likely lead to better outcomes for parent and child.

References: 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy, Mottola et. Al. (https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/21/1339)