Updated: May 17th, 2022
Ladies: should you keep running throughout your pregnancy?

I get it, especially as a first-timer, wondering if it is safe for you to run whilst pregnant. It is doctor recommended that pregnant women are to get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise a week.
And generally speaking, if you’re healthy and you’re having a normal pregnancy, without health risks or complications, then it is safe to exercise. Especially if you were a runner before falling pregnant. Doctors are likely to encourage you to continue running throughout pregnancy if you did so regularly before. So let’s get to it, shall we? There’s some top knowledge to keep one foot in front of the other – because we all know how fun running with a stroller can be!

Don’t worry, running whilst expecting won’t hurt your baby. It can improve your fetus’ growth, such as leaner muscle mass and improve neurodevelopment. But should you be concerned, your body will let you know way before things like over-heating, restriction of oxygen.

Signs and symptoms to familiarise yourself with to prompt you to reduce your training:

  • Struggling to recover in-between sessions
  • Pelvic floor discomfort
  • Joint pain – knees, feet, and back are most common
  • Feeling lethargic all the time
  • Long days and time on your feet
  • Struggling to get motivated to train

Should you meet these symptoms, then choosing another way to exercise is your best bet (after some good old fashioned rest though!) you could try some yoga, walking or light-moderate cross-training.

Pregnant woman running

Its time to completely pull the plug on training if you have any of these:

  • Placenta previa
  • Considerable incontinence (more than minor leakage)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy bleeding

From a poll, mom-runners who continued to run throughout their pregnancy said they found multiple benefits

  • More energy
  • Decrease in morning sickness
  • Healthier pregnancy
  • Stronger mental state
  • Felt in control of their bodies
  • Felt a sense of normality and routine
  • Realised the importance of breathing
  • Sense of empowerment
  • Feeling of quality mom-baby time

That’s not to say you start hitting the trails every day, because we really didn’t understand the relationship between running and pregnancy until fairly recently, I’m talking about 25 years ago!

So while it is deemed safe to keep the exercise to a moderate intensity by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), there are still some concerns to be aware of. The hormone ‘relaxin’ is at its peak during pregnancy and there is a theoretical risk of loser joints throughout gestation. However, research has debunked this myth, if you will, and instead pointed out that women report less musculoskeletal pain during their pregnancy in general.

Pregnant runner stretching

benefits of running whilst expecting

  • Improved mental state
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Help with weight management
  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Less risk of urinary incontinence
  • Decreased low back pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased levels of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance
  • Less risk of needing a C-section
  • Pregnant woman runner with arm weights

    Young pregnant woman jogging down sidewalk in city.

    Can I run long distances whilst pregnant?

    It is safe to run longer distances, a minimum of 30minutes per day is recommended. A pregnant runner’s ability to run longer distances will naturally decrease as mom’s body gets bigger later on throughout gestation.

    So unless you’re experiencing intense morning sickness in the first trimester, it’s A-OK to keep running longer distances that you love so much.

    Even a marathon isn’t off the cards! Racing for a PB isn’t a great idea, let’s be smart here. Just do it for your health, the enjoyment rather than pushing your limits. The largest mom-runner study tested
    1,293 expecting-mom-runners reported ZERO evidence of negative effects of running a park run (5K) whilst pregnant – proving once again, that this is a safe way to exercise.

    Training for races (or just yourself) can be fun, try to mix up your training too. I mean you could try tempos at a steadier rate, or threshold pace. Intervals with increased rest periods/lower intensity of VO2 max. Or even try different distances. Fartlek training can be fun – running to how you feel, or likewise, heart rate-based training. Your resting heart rate will naturally sit higher than usual (you are growing a tiny human, after all, your body is working hard!) so it might be a nice way to monitor your intensity (and recovery!)

    Pregnant runner finishes marathon

    What about after pregnancy?

    Congratulations new mama! Thinking of getting back to running after giving birth? Please check with your doctor – depending on the type of birth you went through and lots of other factors can dictate when it’s safest for your return to the sport you love. Running after pregnancy can be an amazing bonding time, a breath of fresh air for you and a way to get a bit of normality back – and running with a stroller can burn so many more calories… I know right?!

    Woman running with stroller

    Woman running with baby stroller on footpath by river in city

    *DISCLAIMER: Please consult your doctor before straining any training regime! Make sure you get approval and discuss your training goals with a qualified health professional when you find out you’re pregnant. It is good to keep in contact and check in regularly with your doctor as you continue to train, just to be on the safe side.

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