For many years, pregnant women were advised to abstain from virtually any running during pregnancy. It was thought that such exertion could be harmful to both a mother and her baby.
Times have changed.
Today, doctors recommend healthy women, who have exercised frequently prior to pregnancy, to continue exercising during pregnancy. And recent studies show that "pregnant women benefit from regular physical activity the same way as non-pregnant subjects."
While staying fit and strong is in the best interests of most women, there are a few considerations runners should keep in mind. For one, it's not advisable to begin a new rigorous fitness regimen while pregnant. If anything, exertion may need to be decreased somewhat as pregnancy progresses.
As a runner, Kelly Collins of RunningMomCoach.com has experienced some of the benefits of participating in exercise regularly during pregnancy firsthand.
"It's a lot of work to give birth to those babies," Collins says. "Labor is difficult. When you run, you're already doing something kinda difficult. You go into labor and delivery, which is a whole new ball of wax, but you're a little bit tougher from the running."
Running and Its Effects on a Smooth Pregnancy
According to Collins, the benefits of running are not only found during labor and delivery, but also throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
"There are all these wonderful things that go along with pregnancy," she jokes. "There are leg cramps, headaches and insomnia. With each of my pregnancies, I ran a little longer into the pregnancy. The longer I ran, the less I would experience those things. The leg cramps were fewer. I could get to sleep at night, and I had more energy all day long."
Doctors agree that exercise can improve and/or prevent some of the most common ailments associated with pregnancy, making for a much healthier and possibly safer experience.
A recent study published by the Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, found that "regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus."
Maternal benefits include improved cardiovascular function, limited pregnancy weight gain, decreased musculoskeletal discomfort, reduced incidence of muscle cramps and lower-limb oedema, mood stability, and attenuation of gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension."
Raising a Healthy Child From the Start
The benefits of staying physically active during pregnancy don't just stop with mothers. Babies can also experience several positive results. From the Geneva study: "Fetal benefits include decreased fat mass, improved stress tolerance, and advanced neurobehavioural maturation."
In addition, women experiencing pregnancy-related complications may need to abstain from exercise altogether. Each woman is different, and along with her doctor, will need to create an individualized approach.
"Individualizing an exercise program for pregnant women involves medical screening with the use of a physical activity readiness questionnaire for pregnancy, an estimation of previous activity level, and developing a program specific to the woman's situation," according to a recent study at Marywood University.
If a female runner is healthy and has received the green light to continue exercising during pregnancy, Collins suggests that she continue to implement a running program throughout all nine months, if possible, to reap the benefits that exercise during pregnancy can offer.
"If a woman is a runner, and it is at all possible for her to keep running, I definitely recommend for her to do so," says Collins.Looking for something else? Search for a running event to add to your calendar.