The maternity fitness industry is booming

i amIt is common courtesy on the subway to give up your seat to someone who is visibly pregnant. Although considerate, this move can have an outdated effect: that they are not physically fit enough to move in the world.

While this has long been society’s attitude, a different view is gaining steam – one that appreciates the energy required for childbearing and parenting. Prenatal and postnatal workout classes are now common in the fitness industry with recent growth combined with scientific and societal changes.

The truth is that we exist We move throughout our daily lives while pregnant,” says Amy Hoover, MD, resident doctor of physical therapy at Pivolv, a functional fitness regimen designed for women. “While it’s true that our bodies change rapidly and Coordination is required, life and daily activities do not need to stop because we are pregnant.” Not just exercise Supports better movement in body changes, but can provide multiple benefits, e.g Reducing musculoskeletal pain, improving constipation, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and more.

In 2002, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology issued guidelines that 30 minutes of exercise per day is safe for pregnant women. But over the next two decades, science showed that exercise was not only safe, but also beneficial, says Salena Zanotti, MD, an OB/GYN at the Cleveland Clinic. So in 2020, ACOG went a step further and issued updated guidelines on pregnancy and exercise, recommending that normal pregnant women exercise.

In the intervening years, we’ve seen a pregnant Beyoncé ride front row on SoulCycle, we’ve seen Charlotte York Sex and the City The movie revisits her relationship with running while pregnant, and we’ve followed countless celebs’ pregnancy fitness journeys on Instagram.

But since ACOG’s guidelines changed at the same time that the fitness industry itself received a (digital) overhaul thanks to the pandemic, gyms, virtual studios and fitness apps are launching maternity fitness programs designed to serve people before, during and after a Pregnancy in record clip. In May, Nike released the 48-week (M)ove Like a Mother prenatal and postpartum program on its wildly popular Nike Training Club app. Earlier in the month, Apple Fitness+ debuted a postpartum training plan after posting its own prenatal plan in 2021. Sweat by Kayla Itsines and Body by Simone have also announced new offerings in recent months, and The Class has even released a fertility series to support people trying. to get pregnant

Sure, prenatal yoga and moderate aerobic exercise have been common for decades, but the taboo surrounding high-intensity exercise like strength training is finally breaking down, if the Nike and Apple Fitness+ class catalogs are any indication. It is widely accepted that it is generally okay for pregnant people to continue their previous activities as the pregnancy progresses.

“The fitness industry has made giant leaps in improving offerings for pregnant women and new moms,” says Rachel Trotta, a certified personal trainer who specializes in postpartum fitness.. “As a culture, we’re getting over the fear that exercise during pregnancy can be potentially harmful, and we’re recognizing the well-researched benefits.”

And people are taking advantage of the offerings: By 2022, MindBody says prenatal fitness class bookings on ClassPass are up more than 50 percent. Maternity fitness has its moments.

Why pregnancy-focused fitness is on the rise

Over the past two and a half pandemic years, fitness companies that have been able to tailor workouts to their audience have swam, while those that haven’t adapted to the highly personalized digital landscape have sunk. At the same time, all of us – pregnant or not – are starting to pay more attention to our health and physical fitness.

“Health and prevention are huge right now, especially from pandemics,” Hoover said. “People are taking their health more seriously and doing their own research to better themselves. That means they’re looking to be more active at every stage of life,” including pregnancy.

Previously, pregnant people were seen as idealized, delicate vessels whose sole purpose was to bring new life into the world, says Sarah Schrank, Ph.D., a professor at California State University Long Beach who studies the history of the body and product use. Hoover added that this attitude manifested itself in supposedly heroic rules such as telling pregnant people not to pick up simple things like groceries or “Treated as if he shouldn’t be doing normal, everyday work.”

These new workout programs meant to serve pregnant people themselves—and not just the fetuses they’re carrying—show that those attitudes can change. As science has progressed, the pregnant body has become celebrated for its power, and treated as just a carrier of a child to be cared for.

Benefits of working during pregnancy

Today, doctors recognize that exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, but essential. “It is important to be as healthy as one can be [during pregnancy] And exercise is an important aspect of staying healthy,” says Dr. Zanotti.

ACOG advises that “regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your fetus” in many ways, including reducing back pain, reducing constipation, strengthening overall fitness, including your heart and blood vessels, and it may reduce the risk of “gestational diabetes, preeclampsia.” , and cesarean births.” During her own pregnancy in 2020, Trotta says a regimen of frequent short walks and at-home strength training helped her “relieve back pain, maintain flexibility and mobility, and even avoid classic pregnancy bloating.”

Additionally, exercise has been shown to be good for your mental health, which many people struggle with during and after pregnancy. “It’s empowering,” Dr Schrank said. “It makes women feel less disconnected from their bodies.”

Still, Dr. Zanotti notes that ACOG’s exercise recommendations are for normal, low-risk pregnancies, and that all pregnant women should consult with their medical providers about their exercise regimen. Exercise should be avoided.”Maternal conditions such as uterine insufficiency, bleeding, placental problems (such as previa), rupture of membranes and heart disease,” she warns.

Where the maternity fitness boom falls short

Our society, and the fitness industry in particular, doesn’t have the greatest track record of how it treats the choice to bring new life into the world—just look at how pregnant athletes have been treated by sponsors in the past.

As a culture, “we have a lot of ambivalence around the maternal body,” says Dr. Schrank. “Capitalism loves dilemmas, because you can always sell them stuff when they’re worried.” Both women and men are uncomfortable with the idea that a body changes when pregnant, manifesting in the reality of a sudden and large body, because, as Dr. Schrank says, “Pregnancy: good, but obesity: bad.”

“We are under so much pressure to be a certain shape as women in a sexist, misogynist culture,” says Dr Schrank. “Suddenly your body is changing, and you’re either fetishized for your Madonna role, or you just feel fat and gross. It’s terrible. And so exercise then becomes this way of mediating these things, and it’s not so great. Like maybe It’s okay to like, just relax and eat Doritos. Like, maybe okay.”

It’s possible that the expansion of maternity fitness programs is playing on the concern that there may be a right way and a wrong way to grow up—pregnant, but not fat. The ACOG guidelines even put this concern on display when it “promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy” and “helps lose baby weight after your baby is born” as a benefit of exercise.

Could maternal exercise programs add another fat-phobic to an already biological process of dos and don’ts? Dr. Zanotti doesn’t think that’s how important exercise is to a healthy pregnancy. But Dr. Schrank worries that increasing prenatal and postpartum fitness can place more expectations on pregnant women, especially when it comes to losing baby weight.

“We can still do a better job of making exercise less about ‘fitness,’ baby weight, and arbitrary standards, and about movement, quality of life, and stress reduction,” says Trotta. Fortunately, many trainers (though not all) navigate these waters deftly, focusing on the functional fitness needed to handle a baby and how the new mom feels.

Obviously, companies are developing these pregnancy programs because they have the potential to gain new customers Making money does not necessarily mean bad intentions of a company, but the venture is clearly a new revenue stream, not just a proposal out of their hearts.

“Now you can sell clothes to make people look good, or take classes to make you feel better,” says Dr Schrank. “It’s endless, how many things can be sold.”

And some of what’s being sold can feel a bit fishy. Although trainer certification organizations offer pre- and post-training certifications — which trainers pay hundreds of dollars to add to their credentials — Dr. Zanotti noted that “there is no official license for pregnancy coaches.” That is, a trainer may say they are “Prenatal/Postpartum Certified” but that certification does not come with the stamp of approval of a medical organization like ACOG. This means that advertising that highlights instructors with these certifications is little more than marketing. Furthermore, it is not as clear a sign of true medical oversight as input from an OB/GYN.

Still, as imperfect as some of today’s options may be, they offer pregnant women more choice and agency over their bodies than they previously had. If the fitness industry can move away from problematic messaging about the need to constantly perfect our bodies, and offer truly safe, doctor-approved programs, the maternity fitness boom could be a win for moms.

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