Exercising while pregnant has many health benefits for both mother and baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists highly recommends regular exercise for pregnant women. However, which type of exercise is safe? Running is considered vigorous activity. Will it present health risks? The truth is running during pregnancy is safe and has many health benefits for mother and baby.
7 Benefits Of Running During Pregnancy
The health benefits of exercise for pregnant women have been well documented by countless studies. Running, under your doctor’s supervision and within safety parameters, is no different. While walking is a good form of exercise, running may offer better benefits not only for the mother but also for baby.
Reduces the Risk of Acquiring Diseases and Unhealthy Conditions
Fit pregnant women have a lower risk of acquiring diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure which could likewise be passed on to baby.
When you exercise, blood circulation becomes more efficient. Your organs, immune system, and muscles regularly receive oxygen, water, vitamins, and other valuable nutrients that are transported by blood.
Running can raise metabolism or your body’s natural ability to burn calories from fat and use up stored energy in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is produced when insulin binds with a carbohydrate and gets stored in muscle tissue. Inactivity will lead to excess glycogen which will raise blood sugar levels.
As a more intense form of exercise compared to walking, regular running can help regulate the amount of glucose in the pregnant woman’s bloodstream and lower the risk of developing diabetes.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Running can be an intense form of exercise. A steady run will result in an elevated heart rate equivalent to 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Performing an exercise at this level of intensity is effective in improving your cardiovascular health.
The day of delivery can be a very tiring one. Some deliveries may take more than 8 hours of labor. It will be more difficult for a pregnant woman who was not physically fit to begin with.
A pregnant woman who has gone through long, difficult runs several times in her life will also develop a level of mental and emotional strength that will help her during delivery. It is more than just physical endurance. You will need both mental and emotional fortitude as well.
Strengthens Muscles, Bones, and Tendons
Runners have powerful legs. All those months and years logging in the miles have developed strong muscles, bones, tendons as well as greater resiliency to pain and discomfort.
Because they have more efficient internal bodily systems, runners are more attuned to their levels of nutrition as well as hydration.
Pregnant mothers will often find themselves dealing with leg cramps; chronic pain in the knees, back, and hips from carrying additional weight. Running while pregnant will help maintain muscle, bone, and tendon strength which can overcome these types of discomfort.
Helps Mother Maintain a Healthy Weight
There are many reasons why pregnant mothers tend to eat more food than usual. Some believe they are “eating for two”. Others feel hungrier when they become pregnant. Then there are those pregnant mothers who eat out of depression.
Running during pregnancy will help you maintain a healthier weight not just because you continue to burn calories. It will also require you to have a level of discipline to ensure top- level performance while running.
Eating donuts and washing them down with an iced frappuccino may make you feel good but they won’t help you run better. On the contrary, eating foods that are high in processed sugars will only make you sluggish.
Keeps Your Energy Levels Up
Pregnancy will often lead to bouts of lethargy and increased sleepiness. These incidents are due to the heavier bodyweight that you are carrying. Some mothers put on as much as 65 pounds during pregnancy. Staying inactive will make your situation worse.
Running, like all forms of exercise, induces your body to release endorphins which are mood enhancing hormones. They will keep your energy levels up and best of all, make you feel better and happier about yourself.
For pregnant mothers who also have to work, keeping your energy levels up is very important. Regular running sessions will help you feel more functional and energetic.
Lowers the Risk of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a very real and serious concern for many mothers. This has nothing to do with vanity, being self-absorbed or selfish. It is a condition that is brought about by the various hormonal changes the body goes through during pregnancy.
As mentioned in the previous section, running helps the body release mood-enhancing endorphins. You will feel more optimistic, positive, and self-assured. There will be fewer incidents of mood swings as regular exercise helps stabilize your hormone levels.
There is another way that running or exercise, in general, lowers the risk of postpartum depression. You will continue to feel accomplished. Who says you can’t set goals when you’re pregnant? Perhaps the sub-7 minute mile is out of the question. However, you can still set realistic goals from the time you started running in early pregnancy.
Improves the Health and Well-Being of the Baby
Finally, the benefits of running during pregnancy do not start and end with Mommy. The benefits will likewise carryover to baby!
A study that was published by The Washington University School of Medicine last April 2015 showed that mothers who ran during their pregnancy may have protected their babies from developing heart defects.
The research suggested that running and other forms of exercise help remove dangerous toxins from the body through sweat and from having more efficient internal systems.
These toxins if retained in the body for a prolonged period of time could possibly alter the structure of the baby’s DNA which could lead to birth defects including congenital heart disease.
Conclusion: Safety Tips While Running During Pregnancy
Whether you are an experienced runner or a beginner, you should always consult with your doctor before proceeding with exercise. The doctor will help monitor yours as well as the baby’s health. Safety should always be the primary concern during pregnancy.
Generally, if your doctor considers your pregnancy to be complicated or carries a greater probability of risk, vigorous activity such as running may be out of the question. These risks include bleeding, problems with the quality of the placenta, and pregnancy- induced high blood pressure otherwise known as preeclampsia.
Likewise, it may not be advisable to start running as a form of exercise while you are pregnant. You need to learn proper technique in running and breathing in order to make the activity effective. However, the extra poundage you are carrying will make breathing more difficult.
Also, your heavier weight will put more pressure on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Running as a high impact sport may lead to injury during shifts in body weight. You could have recurring pain on feet, knees, hips, and lower back.
If the temperature is warmer and more humid than usual, it would be a good idea to move your running, or any other exercise activity for the matter, indoors. Your doctor will advise you to maintain a body temperature below 102 degrees. Thus, it is a good idea to wear loose- fit clothing and to stay hydrated.
If you are on your second or third trimester, consider wearing a pregnancy running belt. Sometimes called the “Belly Band”, it can decrease back pain, give gentle support to your belly, improve posture, and allow you to perform daily tasks without much difficulty.
Finally, avoid running on uneven surfaces in order to reduce the risk of injury. Better options even for fit pregnant women include running in the public park, a track oval, or on a treadmill.