Last week a weightlifter and mum of two, Lea-Ann Ellison, sparked a bit of a media storm when pictures of her weightlifting at 8 1/2 months pregnant went viral. Opinion, as is always the case when it comes to anything to do with pregnancy, was highly polarized. Some people thought she was great, rushing to her defense; others were absolutely disgusted and accused her of being irresponsible. What struck me most about the whole thing though was the fact it highlighted something that has been bugging me for a long time.
People think they are open-minded, and now the vast majority “support” the idea that exercise during pregnancy is beneficial. But all you have to do is barely scratch the surface and the hypocrisy emerges. It turns out that to the majority of these people think exercise during pregnancy should be limited to walking, pregnancy yoga or gentle swimming. Oh, and I did I mention, definitely not weightlifting! The benefits of moderate (not gentle!) exercise during pregnancy are numerous. It prevents back pain, reduces risk of gestational diabetes and obesity, reduces complications during labor and boosts recovery post-partum to name but a few.
The pictures of Lee-Ann horrified a lot of people attracting comments describing what she was doing as “sickening” and “a good way to lose your baby”. The reality is these pictures were only shocking to most people out there as they are physically incapable of doing what Lea-Ann was doing, pregnant or otherwise, and have no concept of what is involved. This woman is an experienced weightlifter and this is her day-to-day stuff. The best comment I read in support of her was from a guy in a forum and said it all really: “The woman looks as strong as horse so what's the problem?”
Lea-Ann just exposed a nerve, and forced people to confront what they really think about exercise and pregnancy. When I was pregnant last year, one of the things I noticed was many people, though they supported the concept of exercise during pregnancy, were of the opinion it was only OK to do something as long as you had been doing it before you got pregnant. I frequently heard the comment “its OK for you to exercise, you are used to it”. This is rubbish! There is absolutely nothing in the scientific literature to suggest that women shouldn't start exercising during pregnancy, even if they have never lifted a finger before. The benefits far outweigh any perceived risk. The only rule women need is “listen to your body”. I myself only started weightlifting when I was pregnant – it was great for self-esteem, it prevented too much extra fat deposition, it enabled me to recover very rapidly after the birth and I ended up with a pair of toned arms to die for!
In Lea-Ann’s own words, ", but a time to relish in your body's capabilities to kick ass."
I loved the pictures, they show a beautiful strong woman, comfortably lifting weights, with as much effort as another pregnant woman would use hanging clothes on the line.