Is it safe to run during pregnancy?

Women runners and pregnancy

You're a runner and you're pregnant so you have to stop running. Right? Well, actually no. there's no reason you can’t continue running through the majority of your pregnancy. Here's the realbuzz.com guide to running while pregnant...

Let's establish one thing straight away — running during pregnancy is a safe activity. That's not to say you don't need to adjust your running accordingly — you will need to make refinements to the amount of running you do - but running during pregnancy should be all about maintaining a sense of well-being rather than as part of any weight control method. After all, a pregnant woman needs to gain weight for a healthy pregnancy.

Listen to your body

The best rule of thumb when running during pregnancy is to listen to your body. It will tell you when you are tired or when you have had enough. There’s no reason to limit the duration of exercise or target heart rate in pregnancy, but remember that your energy stores will decline as your pregnancy progresses, so your running will need to be altered to reflect this fact.

It is important to consult with your doctor about running during pregancy, just in case there are any complications associated with your pregnancy. There is general agreement that exercise in moderation during pregnancy is beneficial provided that the pregnancy has no complications.

Women may be happy to discover that those who exercise during pregnancy often experience shorter labor, less distress to the baby and fewer caesarean deliveries. Studies have found that women who exercise during pregnancy have a better sense of well-being, enhanced self-image, report a reduction in the minor discomforts of pregnancy, and are pleased to fulfill their need for exercise.

It's even possible if you are not a runner to start running once you’ve become pregnant. Of course, this should be discussed with your doctor first. It's also important that you start off slowly.

Here are some guidelines for women intending on running during pregnancy:

  • If you’re a regular runner, you should be able to follow your usual program to an extent. As your pregnancy progresses, you will need to modify your program depending on how difficult and tough you are finding it. Always listen to your body, and if it's screaming out that you need to rest, then rest.
  • Avoid exercising to breathlessness as this can be a signal that not enough oxygen is getting to the baby.
  • As a golden rule for all runners, stay hydrated. This becomes even more important when pregnant, even if this means you’ll be running to the toilet more frequently.
  • Wear comfortable running shoes with strong ankle support and keep to flat ground; this will help reduce injuries and ankle sprains.
  • Don't include weights if you include any cross-training in your exercise. This only puts pressure on your back. Remember to include some flexibility training into your exercise sessions.

Extra dietary requirements

Diet is very important for a pregnant woman. In addition to the regular dietary intake of a runner, it is recommended that a pregnant woman should consume an additional 300 calories per day to meet the metabolic needs of pregnancy. Dehydration also becomes more of risk during pregnancy, so remember to drink lots of fluids. Morning sickness symptoms can be reduced by running, so give it a try.

During the later stages of pregnancy, running may become very difficult and may not be so appealing. This could be a time to try other activities such as swimming or walking.

Returning to running after pregnancy is not always easy. Experts recommend you should rest up and leave between four to six weeks before resuming exercise. Don't expect to be able to run at your old training levels. It will take time for your body to adjust, so take it easy, build up gradually and most importantly, listen to your body so that you don't overdo it.

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