Many women continue to exercise during their pregnancy, including running while pregnant.
Keeping up a daily exercise routine is a great way to improve your physical and mental health during pregnancy.
Running as a form of exercise also has lots of benefits, from improving your heart health to boosting your mood.
Listening to your body on your maternity journey is important. You’ll need to accommodate a growing bump and boobs as your body changes.
You may be wondering: “Is running while pregnant safe?”
In this guide we’ll explore:
- Is it safe to run while pregnant?
- Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
- Can I workout while pregnant?
- Exercises and activities to avoid during pregnancy
- How much can you run while pregnant?
- Running while pregnant: 7 exercise tips during pregnancy
Is it safe to run while pregnant?
Running while pregnant is generally considered safe.
However, your running routine may be impacted depending on what stage you’re at during your pregnancy
Some women find it hard to run during the first trimester because of morning sickness and fatigue.
Whilst many women find their symptoms improve during the second trimester, most women stop running during their third trimester because it becomes too uncomfortable.
There is evidence that shows that active women are less likely to experience problems later in pregnancy and labor:
- A 2017 study showed that women who performed aerobic exercise 30 to 60 minutes, 2 to 7 times per week significantly reduced their risk of gestational hypertensive disorders, gestational hypertension, and cesarean birth, compared to women who were sedentary.
- A 2016 study on normal weight pregnant women with a singleton, uncomplicated gestation showed that aerobic exercise for 35 to 90 minutes, 3 to 4 times per week is not associated with an increased risk of preterm birth or with a reduction in mean gestational age at delivery.
Check with your healthcare professional before you start any sort of running routine during pregnancy, especially if you’ve been told to expect a complicated pregnancy.
If you’ve never run before, or were not active before you got pregnant, then avoid diving straight into strenuous exercise.
Instead, build up your fitness routine slowly and gradually over a matter of weeks. Training plans like Couch to 5k are great for beginners.
Related: Do you burn more calories on your period? Your common questions answered
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
There are many benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
- Lowers your risk of a cesarean birth
- Helps shorten the length of your labor
- Reduces pregnancy-related symptoms such as bloating and swelling
- Promotes healthy pregnancy weight gain
- Promotes post-pregnancy weight loss
- Boosts your mood
- Improves sleep
- Improves your endurance and overall fitness
#1 Lowers your risk of cesarean birth
By continuing with an exercise routine, some evidence shows that you will be reducing your risk of a cesarean birth.
A 2012 study conducted with 290 healthy pregnant women showed that a supervised program of moderate to intense exercise performed throughout pregnancy was associated with a reduction in the rate of cesarean deliveries.
The study added that a supervised exercise program can be recommended for healthy women in pregnancy.
#2 Helps shorten the length of your labor
Another good reason to go running while pregnant is that it can shorten the length of your labor.
According to the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, women who exercise three times per week throughout pregnancy have shorter labor – up to 50 minutes less than women who did not exercise three times a week or more.
#3 Reduces pregnancy-related symptoms such as bloating and swelling
Exercises like walking and yoga can help to relax the muscles in the gut, therefore helping to move gas through the digestive system.
Gentle exercise like yoga can also help to reduce backache and constipation.
Related: Is it safe to exercise during IVF? Exercises to do and exercises to avoid
#4 Promotes healthy pregnancy weight gain
Exercise helps to promote healthy pregnancy weight gain.
During pregnancy parts of your body, aside from your baby bump, may get bigger and heavier.
Your breasts will get larger to get ready for breastfeeding. Your uterus will also grow to hold your baby.
Most of your weight should be gained in the second and third trimesters and steady weight gain during this time is the best strategy.
The amount of weight you gain during pregnancy will depend on how much you weighed before you got pregnant.
You can use your BMI to work out how much weight you will likely gain during pregnancy.
#5 Promotes post-pregnancy weight loss
Many women return to their pre-pregnancy weight 6 to 12 months after childbirth.
While some women lose half of their baby weight by 6 weeks, for some other women it can take several months.
Daily exercise coupled with a healthy diet will help you shed the pounds.
#6 Boosts your mood
Exercise is proven to boost your mood.
When you exercise, your body releases ‘feel good’ hormones, giving you the familiar ‘runner’s high’ feeling post-run.
Activities like running are also great for reducing symptoms associated with stress, anxiety and depression.
#7 Improves sleep
According to a 2000 study, exercise increases the total sleep time, slow-wave sleep and reduces REM sleep.
Exercising in the morning also has benefits for your sleep cycle and helps you to get a better night’s sleep.
#8 Improves your endurance and overall fitness
Aerobic exercise like running has many benefits for your cardiovascular health, endurance and overall fitness.
By exercising regularly and consistently – at least three times per week – you will build your endurance and stamina.
If you’re a beginner runner, start small with only one or two runs per week, so your body can adapt to your new exercise routine.
Related: Lower back pain after running: Causes + 7 ways to prevent it
Can I workout while pregnant?
If you regularly go to the gym, or do other forms of workouts like yoga or dancing, then it is generally considered safe to continue these during pregnancy, as long as you feel comfortable doing them.
Exercise is not dangerous for your baby.
If you do go to exercise classes, make sure you tell the instructor that you are pregnant and check they are properly qualified. Also tell them how many weeks pregnant you are.
Related: 8 actionable tips to make running with a jogging stroller easier
Exercises and activities to avoid during pregnancy
While most exercises are safe during pregnancy, there are some exercises that you should avoid during pregnancy.
According to VDOT-02 certified running coach Whitney Heins over at The Mother Runners: “You will want to avoid exercises that require you to lay on your stomach (like a Superman) or do jarring movements and extensive jumping such as plyometrics during pregnancy.”
You should also avoid the following:
- Do not do overly strenuous exercise. Only do as much as you feel comfortable doing.
- Do not do activities and sports that have a risk of falling. Activities like horse riding and cycling. These should only be done with caution as falls could risk damaging your baby.
- Do not lie on your back for long periods of time, especially after 16 weeks. Your baby bump can press against blood vessels in your back and you could risk fainting.
- Do not take part in contact sports. Sports like squash, judo and kickboxing carry a risk of you being hit.
- Do not exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level. This puts you and your baby at risk of altitude sickness.
Related: Is yoga good for runners? 6 benefits of yoga for runners
How much can you run while pregnant?
It is recommended you do 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise on all or most days of the week during pregnancy.
This can range from walking, light jogging to a more steady run.
If you’re a competitive runner, you may want to reduce your weekly mileage during pregnancy.
Related: The ultimate guide to running on a treadmill + 5 treadmill workouts
Running while pregnant: 7 exercise tips during pregnancy
Now you know all about running while pregnant, here are 7 exercise tips during pregnancy.
#1 Warm up before each run
Warm up with a walk or light jog then with some dynamic stretches.
Remember to cool down for 5 to 10 minutes after your run with a light jog or walk and some static stretches.
#2 Be consistent
Try to keep active on a daily basis by doing at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Only do as much exercise as you feel comfortable doing.
#3 Avoid strenuous exercise
Maintain a comfortable pace on your runs. You should be able to hold a conversation without getting out of breath.
Do not exhaust yourself.
You may need to slow down more as your pregnancy progresses. If in doubt, ask your maternity team.
#4 Stay hydrated
When you run you lose fluids as you sweat, so it’s crucial you replace these fluids by drinking lots of water before and after your run.
The easiest way to check if you’re dehydrated is to check your urine. If it’s a dark yellow color, it means you need to drink more water.
Your urine should be a pale yellow color.
#5 Avoid exercising during hot weather
It’s easier to overheat during pregnancy, so avoid running in hot or humid temperatures.
If you do run during the summer months, run during the early morning or late in the evening.
Avoid running during the hours between 10am and 2pm where possible.
#6 Wear the right running shoes
It’s important you wear the right running shoes to support and stabilize your feet.
Running shoes provide shock absorption when your fit hits the ground. As you will be carrying more weight during pregnancy, it’s even more important that your shoes provide the right support.
Check our guide on how to find the right running shoes for more information.
#7 Wear a supportive bra
A supportive sports bra is an essential piece of gear for any woman, pregnant or not.
Invest in a high impact, supportive sports bra that can be adjusted as your breasts grow during pregnancy.
Related: 7 of the best websites to buy affordable running clothes