As Kayla Itsines hits back at Internet trolls – is it safe to lift weights when you’re pregnant?

Being a pregnant Instagram influencer can’t be particularly easy, as everyone seems to have an opinion on what you’re doing – which is exactly what Australian fitness star Kayla Itsines is quickly discovering.

In December, the 27-year-old personal trainer announced she was expecting a baby with her fiancé Tobi Pearce, and has continued to post workout videos and snaps of her growing belly in the gym.

You might know Itsines from her fitness eBooks the Bikini Body Guides (BBG), or her hugely popular app, Sweat with Kayla.

And it seems being pregnant doesn’t mean she’s given up on her training regime altogether. Instead, she’s continued posting videos, this time showing elements of her prenatal exercise routines. Itsines also describes how her workouts have changed since becoming pregnant, for example writing on Instagram: “If you choose to train during pregnancy, it should be to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is NOT a time to concentrate on training for abs, weight loss, fat loss or anything extreme.”

However, some Instagram users have still been particularly critical of how she’s exercising – particularly her use of weights. Comments on her recent workout videos have included questions like: “Wouldnt you be at risk of developing diastasis recti- ie separation of your ab muscles?” [sic], and, “Is this safe for the child?”

View this post on Instagram

Walk time😊😊 I’m still doing 30 minute walks with NO incline at 5.5-5.8 KPH or 3.8 MPH (depending on where you are in the world). During that walk, I drink 600mls of water. I do my walks AFTER food, NOT fasted (as I’m pregnant and that doesn’t feel right to me). I know there’s a lot of opinions out there. I’ve been working with women for almost 10 years now, mostly mums. No one is more excited about this baby than me (and tobi) and I would NEVER ever ever do ANYTHING unsafe. My training looks high intensity because of the music and the way the videos are cut. Trust me, my exercises are SLOW and controlled 💛💛 To the people who are new to my page, I am very well known for high intensity jump and bodyweight training. Now, I am doing light weights, body weight slow and controlled exercises and NO jumping💪 I want both me and my baby muffin to be healthy💛💛 www.kaylaitsines.com/app #20weeks

A post shared by KAYLA ITSINES (@kayla_itsines) on

The criticism became so intense that Itsines felt the need to post a response on Instagram, writing: “For the ladies who are writing things like “you are not allowed to lift weights while pregnant?!”, “is that safe??”. I want to put this into perspective for you. The weights I’m lifting are rarely over 5 kgs per hand.”

View this post on Instagram

So I was looking at the comments on my last workout video. Firstly, I want to thank you ladies for your support it’s been amazing👏😍. For the ladies who are writing things like “you are not allowed to lift weights while pregnant?!”, “is that safe??”. I want to put this into perspective for you. The weights I’m lifting are rarely over 5 kgs per hand. I want to you keep that in mind as you read this story.... Yesterday, I went to my friends house who had JUST finished vacuuming and mopping. She is VERY pregnant. I watched her pick up her 2 year off the ground and playfully lift her above her head 5-6 times while they laughed together. She then rested her 2 year old on her baby bump as she walked to the car. She put her child in the car AS WELL as a pram (which she had to fold down and then lift into the car) PLUS two other heavy bags. She then drove to a cafe, took the pram OUT of the car, assembled it, took the two heavy bags out of the car AND her child and went to breakfast. No one batted an eyelid, no one said anything, no one helped. I asked her SO MANY times, “can I help you, let me help you, I want to help!!” She said “babe, I do this EVERY DAY, I don’t need your help haha”. Ladies, my point is, working out safely while pregnant is a wonderful thing. I have been active my whole life. As long as you have clearance from your doctor, you CAN workout and you can use weights. Just because I’m standing in a gym with a crop top and shorts, doesn’t make it any less safe to lift something. I do not lift heavy weights, in fact I’ve cut the weight in HALF that I usually use. ✅ For the mums who have had kids... you would be the first to agree that there are PLENTY of things heavier than 5kgs in your house that you would have to lift or move daily (including other children) So in answer to your questions on my videos... no, the weight is not too heavy, it actually feels too light for me. No, I am not hurting the baby. No, my heart rate is not over 150(for the ladies asking) and YES, you can use weights while pregnant 💛💪 Ladies, you just need to follow pregnancy safe exercises (which I am posting on my page) AND you must first have clearance from your doctor 👊

A post shared by KAYLA ITSINES (@kayla_itsines) on

She adds: “I do not lift heavy weights, in fact I’ve cut the weight in HALF that I usually use. For the mums who have had kids… you would be the first to agree that there are PLENTY of things heavier than 5kgs in your house that you would have to lift or move daily (including other children).

“So in answer to your questions on my videos… no, the weight is not too heavy, it actually feels too light for me. No, I am not hurting the baby. No, my heart rate is not over 150 (for the ladies asking) and YES, you can use weights while pregnant.”

View this post on Instagram

Can’t stop looking at my tummy!!! It’s SUPER CUTE!! 💛💛 So ladies, I did an Instagram story this morning about what you wanted to see if I was to do a pregnancy program! A lot of things came in about ab training and fat loss. As a women’s only trainer of almost 10 years (and a professional) I want to make it very clear that I would never release ANYTHING “ab training” or “fat loss” related when it comes to pregnancy. Pregnancy is a very special time. If you choose to train during pregnancy, it should be to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is NOT a time to concentrate on training for abs, weight loss, fat loss or anything extreme. If I am (still deciding) to do a pregnancy program, I want it to be SAFE for everyone. I want women to move during their pregnancies and feel as comfortable and happy as I do now. I take my job very seriously and I honestly want the MOST and the BEST from you ladies, but that also means being safe and realistic. Thank you all for contributing to that Instagram story, I sat down and read EVERY REPLY! Please feel free to comment below anything you would love to see from a pregnancy program and I will write it ALL down💛 www.kaylaitsines.com/app #22weekspregnant #bbg2019

A post shared by KAYLA ITSINES (@kayla_itsines) on

While it’s natural to be cautious, and there may be certain circumstances where avoiding some forms of strenuous exercise might be advised for some women during pregnancy (it’s always best to speak with your own doctor and midwife if you have any concerns or queries) – generally speaking, being pregnant doesn’t mean exercise is banned.

In fact, the NHS says: “The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.”

It’s misguided to think exercise might ‘harm’ the baby, but of course you still need to be careful and listen to your changing body. Itsines has altered her normal workouts by reducing the weights she’s using, as well as cutting out things like jumping and excessive ab exercises.

Shirin Irani, a consultant gynaecologist at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, says: “As with everything else in life, all pregnant women are different. Keeping fit during pregnancy is very important and there is nothing wrong with weight-lifting as long as the actual ‘lifting’ is suited to the individual woman. If they have been fit and active before getting pregnant, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t continue to be fit and active during their pregnancy.”

For Irani, it’s all about common sense. “If you have become an over-weight couch potato for the last 10 years, then suddenly want to start an exercise regime because you are pregnant, then it is important to get medical advice from your GP before you make the lifestyle change,” she explains. “The GP will suggest a sensible approach to taking up exercise in whatever form you decide to take up. If you are fit and active before pregnancy then there is no reason why this should stop.”

Like Itsines, Irani recommends lifting lower weights than you were doing pre-pregnancy, and says you could instead look to increase the amount of repetitions you’re doing during workouts. “Weight-lifting is good for keeping the muscles toned and the joints flexible, and can benefit women whether or not they are pregnant. The important thing is if something feels ‘not quite right’ then stop doing it immediately, and don’t start again until you’ve talked to your GP,” she advises.

- Press Association


More in this Section

5 of the best wellbeing podcasts to give you a boost

Ask a counsellor: ‘Will I ever get over being raped as a teenager?’

8 things gardeners can do to help alleviate the insect crisis

All the backstage tips for getting the edgy hairstyle from Richard Quinn’s catwalk


Latest Showbiz

Queer Eye star on Lagerfeld: He was sometimes mean but he can be forgiven

Burberry apologises for ‘noose’ hoodie after model speaks out

Karl Lagerfeld made his cat Choupette a social media sensation

Love Island's Eyal Booker: ‘Being in the gym is a form of meditation for me’

More From The Irish Examiner