Michelle Ishio (Resident Fitness Expert and Lifestyle Coach)
Strength training is more important then people give it credit for, and have more benefits than many are aware of.
Yes, it gives your body a nice tight look, and what's become popularly known is that it also revs up your metabolism.
Did you know that it also strengthens your bones? When you are pregnant, it is known that we lose a little bone density. It increases insulin sensitivity, (which means it can help prevent pregnancy induced diabetes).
If you have any weak or painful joints, (most of us do by the time we are in our late 20's and/or when we are pregnant), and by having dense strong muscles, it will help prop you body up off those joints. Also having the dense muscles, it will prevent more injury to that joint by giving it surrounding support.
When you are pregnant, the pregnancy takes a toll on our body. Even if we are exercising, we lose muscle density. The best way to not lose as much is with some weight training.
There are so many excuses we make, that I will give you a new way to think of things or an alternative for you to consider...
So you say..."I don't have a gym membership".
Do you have a chair at home? Do you have a 5 foot square space to stand in? Do you have a local store or the internet that sells 5,8, and 10 pound dumbbells? Enough said :-).
So you say..."I don't have time for strength training and cardio".
If you are training 5 days a week, for example, alternate between a cardio day and a strength training day. If you are doing the weights efficiently, (as in no long "talking breaks", lifting sufficient weight that gets you to lift 8-12 reps with fatigue), you will notice that you are in fact getting in a "cardio workout" because your heart will be beating fast after each set.
So you say..."Strength training is boring".
Put together a circuit, where you alternate doing jumping jacks, in place running, etc, (and if pregnant, riding a bike or using the elliptical machine), between doing 3 sets of one muscle group. How about join a strength training class; by being in a group with the class energy will help keep you entertained, (but remember, that if you are pregnant, always go at the pace and do the exercises you are comfortable with). Find a training buddy, (but remember, no long conversations that gives you guys too much rest between sets), you want the strength training to be a productive 30 minutes.
So you say..."what am I supposed to do?"
Hire a trainer who can give you a couple good routines. If that's too expensive, look for semi-private groups, (and the trainer will tell you how you can modify the exercise if necessary if you are pregnant). There are strength training type classes at gyms too, (and again, if you are pregnant, modification suggestions can be offered). If those alternatives don't work, there is the handy internet; make sure you are on a reputable web site. If you are pregnant, specifically look up pregnancy strength training exercises.
So you say..."I don't want to get big".
woman to gain the amount of size that most are commenting on not wanting to "get that big", it requires specialized training and specialized dieting, so you don't have to worry about that. As well, if you are pregnant, you won't ever be lifting the weight of weights, or near the regimen it takes to get "that big".
Basically, strength training is a necessary activity...I also call it the "fountain of youth"...so no more excuses and go lift something today!
Before you start though, make sure you have the OK from your doctor. Be safe, as in, if you have doubt, don't do it, if you are having to exert yourself too much, then don't do it or lower the weight, if you are pregnant and feel too much pressure or torque in your mid-section, then don't do it, etc. You will still find that there are so many safe exercises you can do to have a great strength training routine.
The benefits of strength training goes beyond what was mentioned in this article, but the key benefits noted here is a good start to understand.