“Is it safe?” is a question that we frequently hear being asked with regards to running in pregnancy. Exercise, as well as making you feel great, has many health benefits, but the key is doing it safely and appropriately. Sophie, one of our Bears, is expecting a baby herself and will soon be writing her own blog about her changing exercise routine during the course of her pregnancy. Watch this space!
Before we hear from Sophie, we thought it would be useful to set out below some guidance about running in pregnancy. Of course, this information is only general advice and you should always speak to your midwife or doctor before beginning any type of exercise during pregnancy. My Pregnancy Notes is an online resource for you to view and manage details of your pregnancy, which you may find helpful.
Pregnancy and exercise
The NHS advises that you should try to keep active each day, but you should not exhaust yourself. You may need to slow down your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to do so. Swimming can often be a helpful way to keep active as the water will support your weight.
Other NHS advice includes the following:
As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you’re probably exercising too strenuously.
If you were not active before you got pregnant, do not suddenly take up strenuous exercise. If you start an aerobic exercise programme (such as running, swimming, cycling or aerobics classes), tell the instructor that you’re pregnant and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week. Increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.
Remember that exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
General dos and don’ts for pregnancy health
- Don’t forget to warm up and cool down
- If you are feeling unwell or if the weather is hot, don’t exercise
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat both before and after exercise
- Don’t exercise to the stage where you are exhausted
- Focus on your posture
- Avoid contact and high-impact sports that can risk damage to your bump
- Think carefully before doing any exercise that carries a risk of falling (e.g., horse riding, cycling)
- Only attend exercise classes with qualified instructors and be sure to tell them how many weeks pregnant you are
The NCT website has some useful workout safety advice, which includes red flags to watch out for. They also have a list of circumstances when you should speak to your midwife or doctor before exercising, so check this out first.
Keep on running?
“Remember you are pregnant, not powerless” says Hannah Mills, mum, personal trainer, and pre-& postnatal specialist. This is an important thing to remember! While this is not the time to take up running, if you ran before getting pregnant, it is usually fine to continue doing so. It is likely, however, that your pace will be slower and so you should just be trying to maintain your current fitness level.
Mother & Baby has the following advice for pregnant runners with uncomplicated pregnancies:
Even when not pregnant, running can put a lot of pressure on the body’s joints. During pregnancy your joints start to loosen due to the hormone relaxin, so there’s a higher risk of injury.
As your body begins to change and your bump grows, your balance may begin to change, so make sure you run on an even surface to reduce the risk of falling. So if you’re someone who runs off-road on uneven ground, run on a path instead. If you feel uneasy about running out and about while pregnant, you can give the treadmill at your local gym a go instead.
When you get to your third trimester you will probably find your pace slows down as your bump is getting bigger, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Don’t worry about whether the motion during running will harm your baby as it won’t. They are safe and secure in your womb and may even enjoy the motion. However, if you do experience any discomfort or unusual pains while running, stop immediately and contact your midwife or doctor.
Running in pregnancy: tips and benefits
Apart from the general dos and don’ts above, here are some specific running tips:
- Wear comfortable and supportive running shoes (get in touch with us for more advice!)
- You might find a pregnancy support belt helps to support your bump, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
- Wear a sports bra
- Plan your route carefully and look where you are going
- Prioritise technique over speed
There are numerous benefits to running in pregnancy, for example:
- Helping to maintain a healthy weight and improving fitness
- Easing aches, pains and constipation
- Reducing the risk of pregnancy complications
- Improving your overall feeling of wellbeing, due to releasing endorphins
- Managing tiredness
The most important thing is to listen to your body. It will go through some big changes during the course of your pregnancy, so work with your body (and your maternity team) to find the right exercise regime for you and don’t just stick to what you’ve always done. After all, they do say that variety is the spice of life!