Is it safe to exercise while heavily pregnant?
People dropped their mouths in surprise recently when an American woman and five time national champion Alysia Montaño ran 800m in 2 minutes and 32 seconds, and why? Because she’s 34 weeks pregnant! Although coming last, Alysia was spurred on and received a standing ovation from the crowd. Alysia spoke to a reporter after her successful race and said ‘I’ve been running throughout my pregnancy and I felt really, really good during the whole process’. Montaño was happy to run after she got the advice from her doctor that it would be okay; she said ‘That took away any fear of what the outside world might think about a woman running during her pregnancy… What I found out mostly was that exercising during pregnancy is actually much better for the mum and the baby. I did all the things I normally do, I just happened to be pregnant. This is my normal this year.’
So the question really is, other than ‘is this woman totally bonkers?!’ is it that shocking to be exercising throughout your pregnancy and is it a dated opinion that no exercise will be best for you and your unborn baby?
It had long been advised that women should do as little exercise or none at all during their pregnancy; a dream excuse for women to put their feet up and be waited on hand and foot, because let’s be honest, we should make the most of it before the baby arrives! Yet this advice to completely relax is now outdated as doctors encourage pregnant mothers who are used to regular exercise before their pregnancy to continue to keep up with their fitness.
If you are used to exercising on a regular basis, whether it’s hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro or swimming the English channel to Dover and back, it is now recommended that you to stay physically active. Speak to your doctor, talk through your exercise plans and create an exercise regime that works to your capabilities. Your exercise regime will depend entirely on how active you were before your pregnancy as it will be likely you will have to adjust your time and efforts so as not to exhaust yourself.
Doctors may advise that you can go the same distance but to lower your ‘time completion’ expectations as it’s likely that you will be slower and it won’t take as long to get tiresome. It isn’t advised that you allow yourself to become exhausted, and at times when you feel out of breath, you should take a break, regain your strength and get your breath back.
If you start to feel wobbly on your feet and you find yourself only being able to turn left, or you start to feel unwell or exhausted then speak to your doctor and revise a new exercise regime. If you are keen to exercise even in the later stages of pregnancy, for comfort reasons you may wish to choose lower impact sports such as swimming, whether that’s breast stroke laps or an aerobics class, or walking.
For those keen to continue their exercise plans throughout their pregnancy, you will be glad to know that studies have shown that exercising during pregnancy improves the health of your baby as well as for yourself. Exercise has been proven to lessen your back pain, prevent excessive weight gain, improve your sleep quality and even reduce delivery complications and time spent in labour.
Did you continue to exercise during your pregnancy and what did your exercise regime consist of?