|Can pregnant women safely participate in Les Mills group fitness classes?
In an effort to meet the needs of pregnant women, Les Mills International is making sure their trainers are well versed in prenatal fitness. They have recently published brochures that discuss BODYPUMPTM and BODYFLOWTM during pregnancy. (Les Mills Instructors can download the pregnancy brochures here by logging in with their user ID and password and selecting the RESOURCES section on the instructor tab.)
Les Mills has also included a prenatal section in the next BODYPUMPTM training release (BODYPUMPTM 63). This session covers five key action points to help instructors safely and effectively teach BODYPUMPTMM to women who are pregnant. It emphasizes the importance of instructors learning and understanding specific safety guidelines and recognizing their own levels of expertise.
Les Mills trainers should review the Education Session of their new BODYPUMPTM 63 release for more information. For a hands-on experience, trainers should attend the Quarterly in Chicago to learn more from the national trainers.
Many women want to be physically active during their pregnancy by either continuing or beginning a fitness routine. While current research indicates that exercise has a multitude of benefits for mother and baby, many new moms have questions about the safety and limitations of exercise. Some words of advice from Sara Kooperman, CEO of SCW Fitness Education and Les Mills Midwest, help dispel myths, ease fears and provide some good common sense about fitness, pregnancy and the Les Mills programs.
Years of experience as a lecturer and trainer, fitness professional and mom, back up Sara’s recommendation. None of these suggestions, however, are intended to replace medical advice. Pregnant women who would like to participate in a fitness routine should discuss it with their doctors.
“Low impact activities like BODYPUMPTM are fine. Frankly, I would even go so far as to encourage women to begin BODYPUMPTM when they are pregnant, using lower weight to start. You have to train for the work of mothering. You will be lifting baby strollers, car seats, portable cribs, diaper bags, etc. BODYPUMPTM is a great way to get into shape or maintain your fitness level to handle the workload of motherhood. Watch the clean-and-jerks though; any snapping or extreme wrist flexion should be avoided. Back-arching should likewise be avoided.”
Sara also highly recommends BODYFLOWTM, which she says is one of her favorite programs. “The mindfulness and grace of the program is lovely for pregnant women. Plus, the focus on the breath is wonderful as a preparatory for labor.” Sara warns that “inversions like forward folds and downward dogs may cause dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea. Listen to your body and, if this occurs, avoid those positions. If you feel fine, keep doing them. Also, be aware that hormone releases [like relaxin] in your system will increase your mobility further. Be sensitive to your moves during BODYFLOWTM.”
On BODYCOMBATTM, Sara is a little more cautious. She recommends that women restrict the higher impact jumps and the snapping punches and kicks. “As you progress in your pregnancy, your proprioceptors slow down and you just feel a bit more clumsy, which can predispose you to injury. Also, because of the weight gain, your balance may be off, so rapid movements become difficult to control and maintain.” She issues a similar warning with BODYSTEPTM: “You'll get to a point when you look down and you won't be able to see the step. Your belly will get in the way. This can be a real problem. Seriously! I personally have tripped over a step. It’s not pretty!”.
With all the Les Mills programs, and exercise in general, Sara has some words of advice for moms-to-be. “Listen to your body. Your body will tell you what is good and bad for it. Your body will protect the baby. Listen when you feel tired. Notice what makes you feel uncomfortable or sore. Don't ignore the signs and work through it. You are your best teacher.”
“Be extremely cautious with your form,” Sara continues. “Keep your knees over your toes and do not extend beyond 90 degrees. Work from your legs, not your back. You know the drill! Don't forget to hydrate before, during and after class; dress for comfort in light layers so you don't overheat; and watch your heart rate. Make sure you can still speak while you are exercising—the "talk test" is fine. Don't even think about a heart rate restriction—the 140 bpms [originally recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] were done away with in 1994. There is no longer a heart rate or core body temperature limitation.”
She also advises pregnant women to “watch supine [back-lying] sit-ups,” but adds that “you can just put a pillow under your upper back, shoulders and head to keep your body up off the floor at about a 15 degree elevation.”
Anyone interested in learning more about pregnancy and exercise should check out Sara Kooperman’s Moms in Motion Specialty Certificate, available at www.scwfitness.com.
To learn more about the Les Mills programs, visit midwest.lesmillsusa.com.