Why mums-to-be should exercise when pregnant
Why mums-to-be should exercise when pregnant
When Paula Radcliffe was six months' pregnant with her first child she caught the public's attention by crossing the finish line of a 10k event in 43 minutes. Despite being 13 minutes behind her personal best time, Radcliffe was clearly delighted with the result.
At the time, she said: "It was really fun day, running at a pace where I could comfortably talk, which I would never do if I was racing."
While most people commented on how healthy the London Marathon winning queen was looking, some people were concerned about the consequences of running such a fast time.These traditionalists claimed that Radcliffe was putting too much strain on her own body and the unborn baby.
But Dr Nial MacFarlane, a sports scientist, disagrees. "According to modern medicine and studies, Paula was setting a fine example to other pregnant women. The advice is that if you were exercising before you become pregnant then don't stop.
"Of course, you will need to slow down, but regular exercise similar to what you were doing before becoming pregnant will be beneficial for mum and the foetus.
"If you look at Radcliffe's running regime before she became pregnant then you compare it to her training while pregnant she had almost halved it."
Radcliffe cut her daily runs from two 100-minute outings to one. While, she continued to do some cross training, including gym work, it was far less strenuous than before.
"She's clearly running much slower, too," adds MacFarlane. "A 43-minute 10k is almost 50 per cent slower than her best time. If you put this into context it is similar to a woman who usually runs a 60-minute 10k, slowing to one hour and 30 minutes. This is perfectly reasonable."
Health guidelines in the western world have changed considerably the last two decades. For much of the previous century, pregnant women were instructed to do little more exercise than sitting on the sofa, moving only their arms and mouths as they "ate for two". It was feared that any exercise could harm the foetus.
Numerous studies have now found that far from being detrimental to the health of mother and baby, exercise is highly beneficial.
The advice is not to take up a new sport and some sports, such as ice hockey and tobogganing, should be avoided in case of a serious knock or fall.But walking, swimming, aqua-jogging, low-impact aerobics, cycling, yoga, Pilates and jogging are all deemed safe while pregnant.
The benefits of exercsie while pregnant
Research reveals that pregnant women who exercise moderately have, on average, a reduced risk of miscarriage, less back pain, easier births, fewer cases of post-natal depression and a speedier return to pre-pregnancy weight after giving birth.
There are advantages for the unborn baby as well. Research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG) has shown that with "fit, low-risk, prenatalpatients, exercise [is] positively associated with foetal growth".
It's been shown that when pregnant women exercise, the placenta grows up to almost a third faster in mid-pregnancy and has more blood vessels and surface area at full term. This is great news for the baby as the placenta is its substitute lungs, kidneys and liver, and transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother.
Do think about moderation and not excess when exercsing.
Things to be careful of when exercsing and pregnant
Body temperature is a concern for exercising mothers-to-be. While research is inconclusive, some experts believe that an internal body temperature above 101 F may cause birth defects in the developing foetus. If you're pregnant, the key is to stay on the cool side, so the best places to exercise are outside or in a well-ventilated gym. Staying well hydrated is also essential.
And if you're out of breath or feeling exhausted you are probably overdoing the keep-fit session.
While pregnant, a woman's body produces the hormone relaxin, which relaxes ligaments surrounding the joints in preparation for the opening of the pelvis during birth. This does mean, however, that women are more susceptible to injuries, especially in the ankles, knees and hips, so it's vital that pregnant exercisers warm up slowly and cool down after a work-out.
Longer, more supple ligaments and tendons can have the opposing effect of shortening muscle length, too, and in turn this can affect pregnant walkers and joggers. "
Other more uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy should be accounted for when exercising. Breasts can be very tender and enlarged so a good sports bra is essential. Pressure on the bladder will require a pre-planned jogging or walking route with ample toilet stops.
In the second and third trimesters, weight gain will inevitably hamper some forms of exercise. It is worth remembering too that a change in the centre of gravity will cause limitations in many sporting activities.
In simple terms, when you are pregnant you should not over-do your exercise and you need to listen to what you body says. But staying fit and in good shape will be of benefit to mum and baby.