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The Spinning® Program During Pregnancy

The goal of exercise during pregnancy is to stay fit, or, to simply make positive lifestyle changes to benefit you and your baby. Pregnancy is not a time to participate in intensive training. Moderation is key. The Spinning program was cited in a study by Dr. Herman Falsetti as an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy due to the ease of bike adjustment on Spinner® bikes and the ability of participants to monitor their exertion. Additionally, Dr. Raul Artal recommends limiting workout sessions in pregnancy to 45 minutes or less to avoid drops in blood sugar that may be exacerbated by pregnancy. Lastly, Spinning does not require balance, as do outdoor cycling and group exercise classes like aerobics and step.

Taking Spinning classes during your pregnancy is safe, as long as you follow certain precautions and your doctor’s advice. In the absence of special circumstances, exercise in pregnancy presents minimal risks with proven benefits to both mother and baby. Most women can continue their exercise program with a few modifications. It is also safe to begin a program after you have become pregnant. In either case, it is necessary to check with your obstetrician or midwife prior to exercising while pregnant.

Physiologic Adaptations
Women experience an array of physical changes throughout and following pregnancy. As an instructor, be aware of these changes, and adjust your clients' workouts as needed. Also pay attention to changing research and recommendations in this field. For example, it has been disproved that pregnant women should only ever work out within a heart rate of 140 or lower. The initial reasoning was to prevent working out to fatigue or overheating. However, giving a single heart rate parameter is misleading: a heart rate of 140 translates into different intensities for different women, and the heart rate response varies according to trimester.

With all the changes in heart rate throughout pregnancy, unless a woman is very knowledgeable about prenatal changes in heart rate and has experience using a heart rate monitor, the monitor alone may not be very useful. Instead, it may be more beneficial to have her use Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion as a guide or a combination of heart rate and RPE. Generally, the goal should be to maintain fitness rather than dramatically improve or set records. Working aerobically is the best way to do this, so an RPE guideline of 11–15 is a good target.

In terms of body temperature, during pregnancy the mother develops an increased ability to dissipate heat and cool the fetus as long as exercise intensity is kept to a low or moderate level.
• The temperature set point for the mom decreases. This means that she will start sweating earlier in workouts during pregnancy than before so that her body will maintain a lower temperature.
• There is an increased blood flow to the skin, which allows for more cooling through sweat evaporation.
• There is a 40–50% increase in the volume of air breathed, which further aids in cooling.
• A mom who exercises regularly continues to become more efficient at cooling.
• The ability to dissipate heat improves by another 30–70% during pregnancy. In fact a woman who is exercising at 65% of her maximum heart rate during her third trimester actually has a lower body temperature than she did at rest before she became pregnant.

Remember that the body cooling adaptations take place at low to moderate exercise intensities. Therefore, competitive athletes or women who are used to training at high intensities should be aware that moderation is necessary.

While body temperature is not so much of an issue, dehydration is. Blood vessels relax in early pregnancy, allowing for greater blood volume. However, the body’s increase in blood volume—which requires a lot of water—to match the vessels' capacity takes several weeks. Therefore, drinking enough water is crucial. Pregnant women absolutely should not exercise if they are dehydrated, and should start exercise sessions with a full, easily accessible water bottle.

During pregnancy the connective tissue around the joints tends to soften and weight increases, which could put a mom-to-be at risk for joint injuries. However, by using common sense and modifying exercise sessions, a client can stay active during pregnancy without getting injured.

Prenatal Benefits of Exercise
• Placenta grows faster and functions better in exercising pregnant women. This means that the baby will get a better supply of oxygen and nutrients.
• Muscle mass, ligament strength and bone density all increase.
• Decreased chance of developing low back pain.
• Increased immunity.
• Decreased incidence of constipation.
• Decreased insomnia.
• Decreased stress.
• Better self-esteem/confidence.
• Help with managing nausea. Just five minutes of activity can alleviate the worst nausea.

Delivery Benefits of Exercise
• 35% decrease in need for pain relief.
• 75% decrease in the incidence of maternal exhaustion.
• 50% decrease in the need to artificially rupture the membranes.
• 50% decrease in the need to induce/stimulate labor with oxytocin.
• 50% decrease in the need to intervene because of abnormal fetal heart rate.
• 55% decrease in the need for an episiotomy.
• 75% decrease in the need for operative intervention (either forceps delivery or cesarean section).
• May decrease delivery time and improve the ease of labor and delivery for women who exercise compared to women who do not.

Post-partum Benefits of Exercise
• Exercising women gain an average of seven pounds less than non-exercising women, have decreased fat deposition and experience better body image.
• Women have a better chance of returning to their pre-pregnancy weight.
• Pregnant women have shown to increase their VO2Max by 5-10% compared to pre-pregnancy measurements. (This was most prominent at six months to one year post-partum).
• Exercising after pregnancy gives the mom some time to herself.

Good news! All it takes to derive the benefits is to do three to five aerobic exercise sessions of 20–45 continuous minutes per week. Many women can exercise within one or two weeks after a vaginal delivery. Bike riding may not be possible for a few months after an episiotomy. Exercise after Caesarean births may resume two to six weeks afterwards with the physician’s permission.

Spinning® Specific Guidelines
1. Make sure that the client has consulted with her physician and that you are aware of any special considerations.
2. Make sure the client has a full water bottle before class starts and that she has eaten within the past two to three hours.
3. Make adjustments in bike setup to make the ride more comfortable such as elevating the handlebars.
4. Use a fan to help promote cooling and to help control heart rate if possible.
5. Use a combination of heart rate and Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion to monitor intensity. Explain effects of pregnancy on the heart rate, depending on what trimester the client is in.
6. In later stages of pregnancy, sometimes the baby’s heart rate can interfere with the monitoring of the mom’s heart rate. If this happens, have the mom wear the heart rate monitor strap upside down and across the back rather than below the chest.
7. Encourage a gradual warm-up (5–10 minutes).
8. Encourage a workout intensity of 11–15 on Borg’s RPE, observe correlating heart rates.
9. Make sure the client is drinking water throughout the ride.
10. Finish with a 5–10 minute cool-down and stretching.
11. Be encouraging and supportive. Share some of the benefits of exercise and how they relate to pregnancy, delivery or post-partum fitness.

By gaining better knowledge of pregnancy and how to handle it in an exercise setting, you will have more confidence in working with expecting mothers and feel more comfortable promoting physical activity among them.

Please remember that if you are ever faced with a situation that you are unsure of, you should contact a health care professional and conduct research before giving advice.

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