Being pregnant

Exercise during pregnancy is safe, so why all the fuss?

Fitness model Sophie Guidolin garnered criticism last week for exercising during pregnancy. Jennifer Pinarski wonders what all the outrage is about.

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Nine years ago, Jennifer Pinarski (right) participated in a duathlon while she was six months pregnant with her son, Isaac.

When I was pregnant with my son, Isaac, nine years ago, there wasn’t a lot of information available on exercise during pregnancy. This was important to me at the time because I was an avid runner and triathlete and I didn’t want to give up my two favourite sports for 40 weeks. At the time, only a handful of bloggers were brave enough to share the challenges of exercising with a baby on board. I was the first in my group of friends to get pregnant, and all of my triathlon teammates had kids who were old enough to babysit my fetus. This meant I didn’t have a lot of moral support as I ran—then waddled—throughout my pregnancy. And as anyone who has tried to stick to a fitness routine knows, moral support is critical to keeping you motivated.

I continued to exercise (with my doctor’s permission), but it was lonely. I stopped swimming around
the 36-week mark, too discouraged by my slow pace and ugly maternity swimsuit. I cried many tears in the pool that day.

Fast-forward to 2015, when pregnant women proudly show off their amazing athletic achievements. Last year, US Olympic athlete Alysia Montaño made headlines for running an 800-metre track race while she was 34 weeks pregnant (she went on to win a 600-metre track race when her baby was only six months old). Last week, fitness model Sophie Guidolin shared a picture of herself lifting weights on Instagram. Six months pregnant with twin daughters, the Australian mom of two looked strong, happy and healthy in the photo.

These mamas are bold, beautiful and backed by science. Since my long ago pregnancy days, research has shown that exercise can help make a baby’s heart stronger and help improve your overall health, too. Unfortunately, the myth that vigorous exercise is bad for pregnant women lingers, and Guidolin found herself in the media spotlight, defending her choice to continue lifting weights and doing Pilates.

“There are so many myths and old wives’ tales when it comes to pregnancy—from early pregnancy until your baby becomes a toddler. However, if you’ve been given clearance from your medical practitioner to continue your exercise regimen, then I highly recommend you continue exercising for the health of yourself and your babe (or babies!),” Guidolin posted on Instagram.

Like Guidolin and Montaño, I don’t understand why people react negatively to the idea of pregnant women exercising, especially when you take into account that pregnancy and birth are two of the most gruelling things your body can go through. In a healthy pregnancy, exercise is the best pay-it-forward you can give yourself and your child—and that’s something that should be celebrated.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

Read more:
5 essential exercises for pregnancy>
Can you run when you’re pregnant?>
Running while pregnant is good for baby’s heart: study>