29 September 2022

Women deserve better from their gym during pregnancy

When it comes to exercise there are still many taboos a women must challenge.

“Being muscly isn’t attractive”

“Why do you need to be strong”

Then we become pregnant - a beautiful, fulfilling gift that brings joy and happiness. Something that 80% of UK women will experience, accounting for 40% of the population. However, even with modern medicine pregnancy can still be a high risk for complications in both mother and child.

Physical activity is abundant in everyday life, it does not change when pregnant, in fact it could be argued to be more important. Exercise has been proven to decrease risk in pregnancy by 25%. Women need to be supported and educated in this exciting time of growth, instead of being judged or told to “take it easy” and handed the regular, old-school ‘options’.

This is a significant opportunity for small group training gyms. However, a recent Quoox survey of pregnant gym-goers indicated that most women feel that their gym has failed them during this pivotal phase of their lives.

Small group personal training gyms exist to provide a unique ‘ultimate’ service to their members. SGPT isn’t about a budget, passive membership but more making the client’s experience personalised and specific to their needs. Gyms typically provide training support, nutrition advice, injury rehabilitation, and adapt to specific needs – why should this change when a client is pregnant? – it shouldn’t.

So, what happens if your client becomes pregnant? Firstly, they need your reassurance. Reassurance that you’re educated and invested in providing them help to gain health & strength. They need someone to read the signs of when needed to be pushed or need to adapt their workout, as they haven’t kept food down that day. Pregnancy isn’t a straight line, one day you may be glowing with inner strength and womanhood, the next day your head can be in the toilet unable to fuel your body because a certain smell turned your stomach.

During pregnancy it’s hard to understand the risks and difficulties that can be faced when we are distracted by the happiness it brings. For many women they can face gestational diabetes, hypertension disorders, operative deliveries, excessive weight gain, weight retention, and postpartum depression. With the NHS facing multiple difficulties (let’s not get into it), there needs to be extra support for women’s health.

It is commonly believed that exercise should be stopped during pregnancy as it is seen as a risk to the baby. Women are advised on this through peers and not specialists. Therefore there is a lack of participation in physical activity, leading to limited resources for mothers to be. The fact that pregnant women are poorly advised on this matter by a stretched NHS mixed with the fear of exercise stereotypes, there is usually an abandonment or refusal to start exercising during this period.

Each pregnancy experience is unique. Different levels of hormones, different experiences of morning sickness. Like an SGPT client, each has individual goals, targets, needs and challenges.

Exercise during pregnancy has positive implications on the health and well-being of both mother and growing foetus, including an appropriate gestational weight gain and a healthy birth weight. Excessive gestation weight gain is a huge risk in pregnancy. It can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, c-section, birth canal trauma, and postpartum weight retention. These difficulties are more common than you think, with excessive weight gain developing due to outdated opinions like ‘eating for two’ or ‘plenty of rest’. These are all aspects no #Gen3SGPT client should ignore. The client’s exercise plan needs to change and be personalised to their situation. They need to feel supported and safe to exercise as they pay for your service.

There is distinct lack of pregnancy specific and consistent physical activity guidance in the UK. Pregnancy is therefore associated with a decline in physical activity amongst women. The topic of physical activity is often neglected and expecting mums are not being presented with key evidence-based information, allowing them to make informed decisions about the type of exercise they require.

It is estimated in Europe between 48% and 60% of women do not exercise during pregnancy. But why do they not exercise? Are there no communities specific enough? Do they not feel safe? – these are questions that shouldn’t need to be asked. There is need to promote and support mothers to be.

A woman asking a typical PT about what they should expect during their different trimesters, and how they should adapt their exercise regime, is typically met with a blank or confused expression. Whilst our market may be male dominant, there is no excuse for not being aware of something experienced by 40% of the population. That is simply verging on embarrassing, and this is a fantastic opportunity for #Gen3SGPT gyms to “do better”.

It has been recommended that women complete 150-180 minutes of exercise per week during pregnancy. This reduces the odds of developing gestational diabetes, as exercise helps maintain glucose levels. There should also be consideration to the type of exercise for each trimester.

Cardio has benefits to reduce hypertension and regulate blood sugar, but once the third trimester comes, more basic movement is key with stretching to reduce constipation and back pain. After mourning sickness in the second trimester specific strength training for muscles (PELVIC FLOOR) to assist in birth and post-natal movements are key. It is not the responsibility of the NHS, and nor does it have the time to arrange safe exercise classes. There should be a service for this community that is supported. Generation 3 SGPT gyms have an opportunity here to create sub-communities within their gyms, to have memberships specific for pregnant and post-partum mothers. Indeed, this is something that the Quoox survey indicated as being of interest to most pregnant gym-goers.

Pregnancy can be very isolating. It is typically filled with anxiety. Mothers can isolate themselves because they fear putting the baby at risk/harm. It is vital to support their mental and physical health.

A #Gen3SGPT gym does not let women down. They communicate make them feel safe to share their pregnancy. This is a time to put forward the extra service. Invest in you clients and they will invest back.

By creating a safe environment and sense of community we can decrease risk associated with pregnancy, increase mental health, and help these mothers to be feel less lonely and more comfortable. The likelihood is that, whilst providing a service to these women, your facility will also benefit commercially as a result.

Written by Megan Westrope.


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