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Running and jumping while pregnant: is it safe?

Mercifully, we seem to be moving away from outdated ideas that exercising in pregnancy is in any way “unsafe”. It's simply not true that pregnant women should avoid be avoiding intense activity that goes beyond walking and gentle yoga - maybe a bit of swimming if you’re feeling saucy. There’s still plenty more research and learning that needs to be done so everyone is receiving the quality, evidence based guidance they deserve to facilitate them the fittest, healthiest and most empowered pregnancy possible. I’m under no illusions, even as a personal trainer and pre/postnatal specialist experiencing her second pregnancy, I'm going to be constantly updating and improving my advice for years to come as we learn more and more.

For example, through my first pregnancy just a couple years ago I avoided all impact as soon as I hit second trimester (14 weeks pregnant). All the advice I’d personally come across at that time suggested that high impact work like running and jumping in pregnancy was a big no-no for pelvic health - I thought if I carried on I’d be wetting myself all over the shop pre and postnatally. Not ideal.

This pregnancy, however, whilst the volume of high impact exercise is less than when I’m not pregnant, I’m still going on weekly runs (circa 5K), and performing high impact exercises like box jumps and even the occasional bit of skipping at 25 weeks pregnant. So why the change in approach?

Whilst more research is definitely needed, I've made a point of actively seeking out studies that test the outcomes of moderate-high intensity exercise through pregnancy. None of these have concluded any negative outcomes pre or postnatally. In fact, most of them have seen great benefits for both mum and for baby.

Another reason for the change in approach (and perhaps most importantly when it comes to making decisions about how I'm exercising through this pregnancy) is that I’m much more informed about my own body and pelvic health. I made it a priority to see a very trusted, very brilliant women’s health physio (Rosie Cardale) for a Pregnancy MOT when I was 18 weeks pregnant. She assessed my posture, my core and pelvic floor strength and reflexes. At this stage my pelvic strength was good and, with the correct techniques, I was able to control abdominal pressure through movements that I would have previously thought were off the table (such as pull ups and burpees). She gave me the all clear to continue with impact work like running and jumping as long as it felt good to do so and I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms such as pelvic pain or leaking.

So what’s my advice for you and running/jumping through your pregnancy?

If you can - see a women’s health physio in your second trimester

This will give you a very clear idea of your own body, specifically your pelvic and core strength and how impact work will impact them.

Reduce the volume of high impact exercise you’re doing as you progress through your pregnancy

For example if you’re a runner who runs multiple times a week, think about reducing distances and switching out some runs for something lower impact like biking or swimming.

Listen to your body

I don’t love the advice “listen to your body” as it pertains to guiding women how to exercise through pregnancies because I think it's too reductive, but it does have a place here. You will very likely feel when your body is ready to reduce the workload - if you start experiencing pelvic pain, leaking, or even just feeling super fatigued, it’s time to reassess and adjust.

If you're currently pregnant I hope this post gives you the confidence - and a bit of an action plan - to keep exercising safely as your pregnancy progresses. If you want a personalised plan to train to be the fittest, healthiest version of yourself both through pregnancy and postnatally then my online coaching programme could be a great option; workouts written specifically for you and your stage of pregnancy and recovery.

Here's to an empire of mums who feel strong, confident and empowered to exercise!

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