In October 2011, marathon runner Amber Miller made headlines after she completed the Chicago Marathon at almost 39 weeks pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl later that night. As news of Miller’s marathon run spread, it sparked a debate among obstetricians and women alike: What level of fitness is safe while pregnant?
The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends on their website that pregnant women without any medical or obstetrical complications get at least 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. In addition, if the woman was a runner before pregnancy, they often can keep running during pregnancy, although the routine may have to be modified.
Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Angie Tursman with Prima Bella Women’s Health in Valparaiso encourages her patients who already have an active lifestyle to continue their fitness regime—including running.
“If you are a runner and you want to continue to run throughout your pregnancy and you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and you are a healthy person, you can safely continue your running program,” Tursman said, but she reminds patients when it comes to racing that they’re a mother before they’re a runner now.
Moms-to-be can expect their running times to slow and should be careful not to push beyond their comfort level. Tursman asks patients to perform the talk test while exercising. Being able to speak while exercising ensures that the woman is not too winded. Women should stop the exercise if they experience bleeding, severe shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains or headaches, Tursman adds.
At Community Fitness Pointe in Munster, Pre- and Postnatal Fitness Specialist Patty Grill suggests moms-to-be who want to continue running should hop in the pool. Women can run in the deep end of the pool and use HYDRO-FIT cuffs, buoyant weights that can be worn on the ankles, to provide more intensity to the workout.
“It mimics the same exercise as running without the impact on your joints,” Grill explained. “As women progress in their pregnancy their range of motion changes. It’s harder for them to do certain exercises. We’re very pro-pool, because the water takes all the weight off. They can move a little bit better in the water.”
In addition, Community Fitness Pointe offers a variety of personal training and group exercise class options. Grill says she gears her program to the needs of her members. Group exercise classes for pregnant women include everything from a pool class to yoga, step class and work on the treadmill.
As a safety precaution, Tursman discourages patients from any exercises or activities that can increase the risk of falling or trauma—such as skiing or gymnastics. In the second and third trimesters, women should not lift anything greater than 25 lbs and exercises done while lying on the back are discouraged because it decreases blood flow to the fetus.
Finally, women should consult with their health care professional before beginning or continuing any exercise.