How Intense Should Pregnant Women Weight Train?

How intensely should pregnant women train with weights? Perhaps your doctor has endorsed weight training if you have a low risk pregnancy, but how intensely is it safe for a pregnant woman to train with weights? This is something that your physician may not have solid knowledge about.

However, a new study investigated intensity when it comes to weight training and pregnancy. 

I’m a certified personal trainer and have always recommended that pregnant women abide by the exercise rules of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology when it comes to exercise guidelines during pregnancy, and that expectant women should consult with their physician.

But when it comes to the intensity level of weight training, this new study points to the low to moderate range of intensity as being safe and effective. It’s also important to note that the investigation did not have any pregnant subjects weight training at a highly intense level.

Thus, the outcome for highly intense weight training on pregnant women is not clear; only the effect of low to moderately intense strength workouts is. There were 32 expectant women in this study that lasted for 12 weeks, with a total of 618 strength training sessions. None of the women suffered any musculoskeletal injury during these supervised sessions.

"Doctors often have been unwilling to prescribe weightlifting, in part, because there was little evidence that it is safe and effective," explains Patrick O'Connor, researcher in the kinesiology department 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 study subjects did strength training twice a week. The routines targeted muscles that tie into back function and back pain. Over the 12 week period, these pregnant women increased the amount of weight lifted by an average of 36 percent.

This shows that pregnancy does not keep a woman from increasing her strength, including women who have never lifted weights before. Historically, doctors have been reluctant to recommend weight lifting to expectant women simply because their bodies produce high levels of relaxin, which is a hormone.

This hormone increases the laxity of connective tissue to prepare the body for giving birth. Increased laxity raises the risk of orthopedic injury. This is the reason that the research excluded highly intense workout sessions, and instead studied only low to moderate.

Though the women did not experience any orthopedic problems, there were 13 reports involving pelvic pain, headache and dizziness. O’Connor especially warns about the dizziness, even though it subsided after a few weeks into the study.

Variables that can cause dizziness during exercise include 1) being poorly conditioned in the first place, 2) inadequate hydration, and 3) insufficient nutrients in the diet and/or not eating enough. Variables #2 and #3 would more likely cause symptoms in people not accustomed to exercise.

Though lifting weights raises blood pressure during the actual routine, blood pressure is normally lower after the session is completed. In the case of the pregnant women, their blood pressure didn’t change – either after any given workout, or after the 12 weeks.

The conclusion is that training with weights was neither bad nor good for blood pressure. More studies involving the effects of weight training on pregnant women are planned. The full report is in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health (March 2011).

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325151651.htm


Black Women’s Obesity: Treadmill Desk Can Help

The amount of sitting time on the job by black women is linked to obesity risk; a risk factor that’s independent of how much exercise they get outside the workplace.

This association is also found in other races as well as in men, but a study out of the School of Medicine and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis sought to see what the correlation was with a diverse population.

BMI stands for body mass index, and the BMI value correlates to a person’s size. The larger the BMI number (up to a point), the more overweight the person usually is. I say usually and up to a point because a bodybuilder might have a BMI in the “overweight” range, yet have only seven percent body fat. Body mass index is calculated using height and weight.

However, once BMI gets closer to 30, this probably isn’t a bodybuilder with super low body fat, but rather, a person who carries a lot of excess fat—someone who’s overweight. Obese people have high BMIs.

Lin Yang, PhD, wanted to find out about the association between self-reported sitting time on the job and body mass index, by gender and by race…regardless of exercise time beyond the job.

Yang points out that this is the first investigation “to examine the differences in the association between occupational sitting and weight status among African American women and white women.”

The study subjects were interviewed by phone, and one of the questions asked was how much time they spent sitting at work. Most of these participants were overweight or obese, and included men and women, black and white.

There were three categories of time spent sitting on the job: 31-180 minutes; 181-360; and over 360. Yang et al found that, after making adjustments for variables, black women in all three categories were two and a half times more likely to be obese, when compared to black women who reported a sitting time of 30 minutes or less.

This association was independent of how much time they spent being active outside the workplace.
However, this link wasn’t evident among white women, and no blaring associations existed with the men.

Why are BMI, obesity and sitting time on the job tied together in black women?
The researchers explain that the lack of this association with the men may be due to the differences between women and men in their preferences for physical activity.

"Men are more active in leisure-time physical activity than women,” state the researchers, and “women tend to do less vigorous and more moderate activity compared with men." There was no theory why this correlation was stronger in black women vs. white women.

Treadmill Desk Reduces Sitting Time at Work
Regardless of your race and gender, a treadmill desk will benefit your health and, over time, help curb obesity or assist with weight management.

See if your workplace will accommodate a treadmill desk. If not, at least get one for home computer use. In fact, walking on a standard treadmill while watching TV will go a long way in cutting down on your daily sitting time.

Over the past few years, research has been piling up showing that sitting is the “new smoking.” The “sitting disease”  is very bad for health—and not just correlated to obesity. It’s linked to diabetes, cancer and even blood clots. A treadmill desk will combat this affliction.

Source: sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141201161118.htm


Best Type of Exercise for Improving Ejection Fraction

Not all exercise is the same when it comes to improving ejection fraction.

There is a certain type of exercise that research has shown to improve one’s ejection fraction remarkably well, even if it’s very low. It’s called interval training.

I’m a fitness professional, not a cardiologist, but I will cite to you the stunning research and then explain how to perform this simple kind of exercise.

The first report is titled “Superior Cardiovascular Effect of Aerobic Interval Training Vs. Moderate Continuous Training in Heart Failure Patients” (Circulation).

“Continuous training” refers to a fixed pace, or a pace-based session, such as 20 minutes of nonstop level (non-incline) walking at 2.5 mph (give or take very minor fluctuations in speed). This nonstop speed, though slow from the viewpoint of healthy people, can be quite fatiguing to many heart failure patients.

To convert 20 minutes to an interval training session, the patient might go just one minute at 3.2 mph and then three minutes at 1.8 mph, and keep alternating this way till 20 minutes are up. This second approach is superior to the first approach.

For this Norwegian study (Wisløff et al), 27 people with an ejection fraction of 29 percent were assigned to one of three groups.

The first group was continuous training (also known as “steady state”) at 70 percent of highest heart rate. The second group did interval training (95 percent of highest heart rate). The third group was the control. The aerobic sessions were done for 12 weeks, 3x/week.

For only the interval training group, the report states: LV ejection fraction increased 35%. The conclusion says that intensity of exercise was an “important factor” for improving aerobic capacity and reversing left ventricular (LV) remodeling.

The second study (Meyer et al) pits HIIE against MICE. HIIE stands for high intensity interval exercise, and MICE stands for moderate intensity continuous exercise.

This report is heavily detailed, but the conclusion states: HIIE is more effective than MICE to improve VO2peak in patients with heart failure and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction.

Studies of aerobic exercise on people with congestive heart failure (who of course, have the compromised ejection fraction) have the patients either walking or pedaling a stationary bike.

In the case of treadmill exercise, an incline is often used, as it’s easier on the knees of older patients to walk slowly on an incline than to walk briskly or jog on a flat or level surface.  

But when using a treadmill, don’t hold on, as this negatively alters gait and posture, and mimics using a walker a lot more than actual walking. Learn to handle a treadmill without holding on (a natural arm swing) by first using very slow speeds.

The best type of exercise for improving ejection fraction, according to these and other studies, is interval training. Many patients find this more inviting than continuous or steady state, because interval training involves “recovery” periods in which you get to walk or pedal at a relaxed pace.


Four Reasons Women Should Get Strong

The weak woman went out with the bathwater years ago, and the strong woman is IN more than ever.

Whose arms and shoulders would you rather have? Elizabeth Taylor’s during her heyday? Or Madonna’s, Tina Turner’s, Angela Bassett’s or Maria Sharapova’s? And no, you don’t need to be a tennis star to have strong looking arms or a strong body.

It’s not unfeminine for women to get strong. In fact, getting strong is a matter of survival for women.

Not only will a strong body be less likely seriously injured in an accident or more likely to successfully fight off disease—but it can help a woman escape a dangerous situation. There are four basic reasons that a woman should try to become her strongest.

Suppose you’re afraid to stand up to a demeaning or unfair boss, or are afraid to terminate an unhealthy relationship.

Get going on the deadlift and bench press: two extremely effective strength training moves. Let’s say you get up to 175 pounds and 135 pounds, respectively. Think it will be a whole lot easier for you to stand up to that workplace tyrant and drop the toxic relationship like a bomb? Of course!

When people strive for greater and greater strength…they just can’t help but stay committed to their fitness regimen. Achieving one’s strongest body has no limits, whereas focusing on reaching the desired body weight does: Once you reach that weight, then what?

Yes, work on keeping your body weight there, but that’s just not as exciting as gunning for higher barbell numbers.

Scale number vs. barbell number
Discourage yourself from fixating on the scale and instead to fixate on the weight of the barbell you’re lifting.

You will become more excited about your workouts and crave higher numbers on the weights that you push and pull against. And there will be a most intriguing side effect: fat loss and physique transformation.

Embracing strength, not a size zero
Think of how much better you’ll feel about your body when you know that you can deadlift 1.5 times the body weight of a size zero woman. Think of how self-confident you’ll be when you know that you can bench press the size zero woman’s body—for a warm-up.

It’s been said that women who are naturally thin are lucky…but women who must work to be lean are strong. Weak looking women are just so unattractive.

Why Bodybuilders Should Do Cardio

Bodybuilders and other muscle-building enthusiasts SHOULD do cardio and here’s why.

This may seem like a question that any fifth grader can effectively answer, but actually, a number of strength training enthusiasts and bodybuilders ask why they should do cardio exercise.

Unless someone competes in or partipates recreationally in a sport like basketball, tennis, soccer, mountain biking, hiking, triathlons and marathons, there almost seems to be no point for cardio when bodybuilders get their heart rates clipping along throughout a weight lifting session…right? Or not?

Yes, intense weight workouts will have a benefit to heart health. 
But only to an extent. If you disagree and have not been doing any kind of structured cardio exercise (hill walking, jogging or running, step aerobics, pedaling), then test your theory by seeing how long you can briskly climb up many flights of stairs before feeling a need to stop for a rest. If multiple staircase flights aren’t available, jog around in a parking lot.

A bodybuilder may be able to deadlift 405 and squat 315 for reps, but may also feel punished after just 10 minutes of a fast-paced pickup basketball game or aching after a slow 10 minute jog—or even quite winded after accompanying the kids or nieces/nephews on a family hike.

Granted, cardio in the form of jogging on flat courses won’t quite cross over to walking up 10 flights of stairs, a person who does absolutely no cardio will fatigue rather quickly when doing other forms of aerobic activity, such as running down the street after their loose dog, briskly walking up an inclining trail or road, pedaling a bike up that road, etc.

Just how out of breath are you after performing a five RM of heavy bench pressing? 
Yes, a five RM of a heavy deadlift will leave you panting, but deadlifting isn’t the same as high intensity interval training on a treadmill or steady state running or uphill hiking.

Set the treadmill incline at 15 percent and the speed at five mph and see how long your “I don’t need cardio” body can last before having to stop. And holding onto the machine is not allowed. Keep your hands off the treadmill.

In fact, use a zero incline and set the machine for 10 mph. Then watch what happens—or rather, feel what happens.

Though marathon runners will never look like physique athletes, this doesn’t mean that aerobic exercise must be long, drawn-out and painful.

It can be completed in 20 minutes in the form of HIIT, and in four minutes in the form of Tabata (20 seconds on of all-out effort and 10 seconds of rest, done for eight cycles).

In the physique training and bodybuilding world, the type of cardio that’s encouraged is that of some kind of high intensity, and there are many permutations of this.

In addition to standard HIIT (30 seconds on, 1-3 minutes’ rest, eight cycles total), you can run as fast as you can for 200 meters, then walk for a few minutes, on and off. You can walk on a trail that goes up and down with hills—dashing up only the hills and walking the flatter parts.

Ten mile runs, or back-to-back aerobics classes, are discouraged, because excessive steady state aerobics can burn muscle. A favored approach is some form of high intensity twice a week, and slow steady state once a week (not exceeding an hour).

The program must fit one’s goals. Usually the bodybuilder or physique athlete’s No. one reason for doing cardio is to get the bodyfat percentage as low as possible.

But it’s also conceivable that you may prize the ability to run through the neighborhood chasing after a loose dog—possessing this kind of ability for just-in-case, unexpected scenarios. For this, parking lot or track sprints are in order.

For hilly hikes with the kids or even by yourself, then incline treadmill work and the revolving staircase will help tremendously, but remember to ban holding on.

If heart health is the No. 1 goal, then know that research continues to mount showing that high intensity cardio is just as effective, if not more effective, for heart disease prevention, than long sessions of paced movement. This type of exercise also boosts immune function, bone density and lung power.

If physique and bodybuilding comps are the goal, then cardio is needed to cut bodyfat percentage down to as low as possible, though a balance between weights and cardio must be established so that the athlete doesn’t burn any muscle.

Finally, someone once said to a cardio-skeptic: “Get in a fight and see how far your no-cardio routine gets you.” MMA fighters have fabulous bodies, and you can’t believe that these athletes don’t do any aerobic type of exercise outside the ring. They prove you can do both weights and cardio and be super fit as well as have a great physique.