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Staying active during pregnancy can boost your energy, improve your mood, and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. But as you think of different ways to stay physically active, you may wonder, is it safe to run during pregnancy?
Running is a high intensity workout, so naturally, you might be a little hesitant to continue it during pregnancy. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to hang up your running shoes — at least not yet. But before you hit the pavement, here’s what you need to know about running while pregnant.
Well-meaning friends and family might warn against running. Some might question whether the level of intensity could induce early labor, or worse, cause pregnancy complications. And if you’re constantly fed these fears or questioned by others, you might err on the side of caution and stop running.
While this advice and concern come from a good place, the truth is, running is generally safe during pregnancy.
Running won’t cause a miscarriage or harm your baby. So if you were a runner pre-pregnancy, continuing your routine is totally fine. That said, you may have to take some precautions, which we’ll dive into, and you have to listen to your body.
There’s no denying that pregnancy will have some impact on your workout routine. You may have to run at a slower pace or modify how often you run, but you definitely don’t have to simply stop.
What if you weren’t a runner before pregnancy? Can you start running now?
If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, incorporating some type of physical activity into your daily routine can offer benefits. However, pregnancy is not the time to start running.
Your body is already working harder and going through a lot of changes. Starting an intense workout adds more physical stress, which isn’t ideal.
Instead, opt for lighter workouts, such as gentle aerobics, walking, yoga, or using a treadmill or elliptical at a low speed. To develop a routine, start slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. For example, walk 5 minutes a day, and then increase to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes.
Let’s be honest, pregnancy — albeit a beautiful experience — can wreak havoc on your body. You might deal with fatigue, pregnancy brain fog, mood swings, and naturally, weight gain. Yet, staying active during pregnancy can greatly improve how you feel — physically and mentally.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. These are workouts that raise your heart rate and induce sweating, including running.
If you were physically active before pregnancy, staying active shouldn’t pose too many challenges (you know, besides the morning sickness, exhaustion, and aches and pains). You may just need to adjust your expectations and the intensity of your workouts along the way.
If you’re able to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week, you’ll meet the 150-minute recommendation. It’s fine to spend this time running, but you can also build in other activities, such as swimming, yoga, or walking.
Working out during pregnancy can ease constipation, back pain, fatigue, and promote a healthy weight. It also lowers the risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
And let’s not forget, exercise increases the body‘s production of endorphins. These are feel-good hormones that can elevate your mood. Exercising during pregnancy is a win-win. It can help you improve both your physical and mental health.
Although running is an excellent way to stay active during pregnancy, you may encounter some challenges.
Pregnancy changes your body, so you may deal with a shift in your center of gravity and balance as your belly increases in size. This can put you at risk of falling, more so if you’re running on uneven trails. To prevent an accident, you may want to run on pavement, such as the sidewalk or track at a local school. Running on flat surfaces is also easier on your joints, which makes for more comfortable, enjoyable runs.
As your belly gets bigger in your second and third trimester, the bouncing motion can also be uncomfortable. However, wearing a belly support band can reduce this movement.
Also, be aware that your joints and ligaments become looser during pregnancy. This is because your body produces the hormone relaxin to relax ligaments in your pelvis in preparation for childbirth. This hormone relaxes ligaments and joints in other parts of the body, too, putting you at an increased risk of injury. It’s best to start slowly and avoid workouts that cause discomfort.
It’s perfectly okay to adjust your routine. As you get closer to your due date, you might not be able to run as far, long, or fast.
Depending on the circumstances, at some point in your pregnancy, you may have to stop running altogether — at least until after your delivery. Signs that you need to stop running (and speak with your OB-GYN) include headaches, chest pain, muscle weakness, vaginal bleeding, calf pain, or amniotic fluid leaks.
Here are a few tips to make running easier and safer while pregnant.
- Purchase good running shoes. Your running shoes should fit well and support your ankles and arches. This keeps your feet stable and prevents falls and injuries. Body changes during pregnancy might mean you need new shoes at some point.
- Wear a sports bra. Your breasts may increase in size during pregnancy, which can make running uncomfortable. Invest in a good, supportive sports bra to prevent breast pain while running.
- Wear a belly support band. These bands help stabilize a growing belly, which can ease pain or discomfort caused by a bouncing belly. Support bands also reduce pelvic pressure and help improve posture.
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after workouts to avoid dehydration and overheating. You can also prevent overheating by wearing loose-fitting clothes and exercising indoors when it’s hot or humid.
- Listen to your body. Physical activity is important during pregnancy, but don’t overdo it. If you feel overexerted or overly tired, it’s OK to skip or shorten a workout. If running becomes uncomfortable, walk instead.
- Include strength-training. Since you’re prone to muscle and joint injury, incorporate strength-training exercises to strengthen your muscles and joints. These exercises include lunges, squats, and light weightlifting.
- Run in an area with bathrooms. As your baby grows, the extra weight can put added pressure on your bladder, meaning you’ll have to urinate more frequently. Map out a running route closer to home, or in an area with access to public restrooms.
- Eat a healthy diet. Your body needs extra calories when exercising during pregnancy. To maintain your energy level during workouts, have a pre-exercise snack, such as a piece of fruit or toast with nut butter. Eat foods with a high water content to help stay hydrated. Also, refuel after your workouts with about one to two servings of carbohydrates and proteins and one serving of healthy fat.
Running — and exercising in general — during pregnancy can benefit your physical and mental health. It can ease back pain, reduce constipation, improve mood swings, and help you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
As you get further along in your pregnancy, though, running or exercising can become more difficult. Even if you’re unable to keep up the same pace, some physical activity is better than none. So instead of jogging or running, consider walking, swimming, or other light exercises for at least 30 minutes five days a week.