Is It Safe To Run During Pregnancy? - Baby Chick
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Is It Safe To Run During Pregnancy?

Learn whether you can run and jog during each trimester of pregnancy, along with tips for doing so safely, potential risks, and when to stop.

Updated July 11, 2024

by Joanna Schroyer

Registered Nurse

Medically reviewed by Stephanie Sublett

Board-Certified OB/GYN, FACOG, IBCLC

Being pregnant changes everything. You aren’t responsible just for yourself anymore. You have another person to consider and take care of now. That makes you think about every aspect of your life, from how you eat to how you sleep and everything in between. One common question pregnant women ask the OB (obstetrics) provider is, “Can I keep doing my regular exercise routine?” Typically, the answer is “yes” if you’ve already been performing these exercises for a while. The answer could also be “no” if you haven’t already been exercising regularly or have any complications. Or you might hear, “Let’s talk about it.” This is an excellent opportunity for you to start an exercise routine with the supervision of your doctor. However, whether you can specifically run while pregnant requires a more complex answer from your OB provider, not just a simple “yes” or “no.”1,2

Many scientific studies show that there are no risks to performing exercise routines during pregnancy and that physical activity doesn’t increase your chances of low birth weight, early delivery, or early pregnancy loss.1,2 But like any other exercise routine during pregnancy, you must discuss running or jogging with your OB provider, since there are many factors involved in finding the best routine for you and baby. They consider your general health, your age, whether your pregnancy is high risk, the trimester you’re currently in, and whether you’ve been consistently exercising for at least six months before becoming pregnant.

Can You Run While Pregnant?

Yes. There are more pros than cons to running while pregnant. However, the cons can be dangerous for you and the baby. That’s why it’s so important to get consent from your provider. If you’re considered a high-risk pregnancy or have any complications, running may not be an approved exercise for you. Even if you aren’t in these categories, running or jogging is a high-impact activity, which is hard on your joints and causes jarring or bouncing of the internal organs. These are all reasons to be careful with your exercise plan.1,2,5

You should also be aware of your heart rate during exercise, as women’s resting heart rate increases by seven to eight beats per minute when pregnant. Of course, when you exercise, this increases even more. Providers typically recommend keeping your heart rate at 140 beats per minute or below, even during physical activity. This is a very generic number, as every person is different. Don’t get too fixated on monitoring your heart rate; it’s more important to listen to your body, follow its cues, and work out a perceived exertion of “light to somewhat hard,” per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).16,17

In general, physical activity makes your body healthy and stronger and helps improve your mood and uplift your spirits. So, it’s good for both you and baby overall. Exercise can help a pregnant woman with certain discomforts and even prepare you for labor and delivery. Just know there are some limits to what you can do.1,2,5

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

23 weeks pregnant woman exercising at home. Exercising on exercise mat and working stretching exercise.

Performing moderate exercise while pregnant has benefits for both the mother and baby. For example, moms can have an easier and less complicated labor and a faster recovery after birth. Exercise also helps with your breathing and pushing during labor. Here are some more possible benefits of exercise for the expectant mother:2,3,4,5,16

  • Can improve posture, which helps reduce backaches
  • Promotes better bowel movements and reduces bloating
  • Helps minimize foot, ankle, and hand swelling
  • Reduces weight gain and fat retention
  • Improves mental state and attitude
  • May help treat (or even prevent) gestational diabetes
  • May decrease preeclampsia and cesarean birth risk
  • Can increase cardiovascular health (strengthening of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels) and muscle strength in general
  • Can increase energy levels
  • May help with sleeping and getting better rest
  • May help prevent urinary incontinence (leaking urine when you cough, stand up, etc.)
  • Can make it easier to return to good shape after your baby is born

Baby also gets benefits from mom’s physical activity. Fetal benefits may include decreased growth of the baby’s fat mass (also called fetal fat organ), improved stress tolerance, enhanced placental development, and an advanced communication rate between the nervous system and baby’s behavior. Babies born to mothers who are more physically active during pregnancy show improved orientation behavior, meaning they’re more stimulated by and interested in their surroundings. They’re also less demanding of their mother’s attention.6,7,15

Running While Pregnant: First Trimester

The first trimester is the first three months of pregnancy, from zero to three months (or weeks one through 12). Most women don’t learn they’re pregnant until about six to eight weeks, or one and a half to two months into the trimester. So, exercising or running during this time isn’t a concern if you’ve already been doing this routine. You may feel more tired or find it slightly harder to catch your breath after exercising. These clues might even help tip you off that you’re pregnant.9,10,11

Once you know about the pregnancy, you may need to adjust your regimen slightly. You’ll need to urinate or pee more often, so keep your jog closer to home or public restrooms. Try to jog during the part of the day you feel the least tired. This can be different for all women. Remember to keep well-hydrated as well. Some women who experience morning nausea or sickness find that running in the morning and breathing in fresh air help reduce those symptoms.9,10,11

Running While Pregnant: Second Trimester

The second semester of pregnancy is months four through six (or 13 to 28 weeks). It can become a little more difficult to perform your jogging route during this time. Your pregnancy hormones are now in full swing; one side effect is the loosening of your joint tissues to prepare your pelvis or hips to open up easier during a vaginal delivery. This affects all your joints, including your knees, ankles, and feet. You may notice that your feet seem to be getting bigger, and I don’t mean from swelling. Your knees also can become more sore after running. These are all normal pregnancy changes.9,10,11

Also, you will start to see your profile change as your baby bump grows bigger. This changes your center of gravity and can make it easier to lose your balance and fall. We want to avoid any trauma to the belly area. You can continue to run, but stay more on flat territory and smoother areas. Avoid bumpy, rugged trails and gravel areas. This is also a good time to consider changing your routine to something other than running.9,10,11

Running While Pregnant: Third Trimester

A pregnant woman jogging in a park.

The third and final trimester of pregnancy is seven to nine months (or 29 to 40 weeks). Running during pregnancy during this time can become increasingly difficult. Your body’s blood volume increases by 40-50% by the second and third trimesters to sustain the pregnancy and prepare for delivery. This puts more strain on your heart and lungs. Some pregnant women can continue their jogging regimen, but others find it’s time to switch to a different exercise.8,9,12

Here are some types of exercise for pregnant women that are similar to running but don’t involve high impact on the body and joints. These provide the same aerobic benefits:8

  • Stretching exercise routine
  • Brisk walking
  • Using free weights or elastic bands for resistance training
  • Cycling on a stationary bike
  • Water aerobics or hydrotherapy

Running Hydration and Nutrition While You’re Pregnant

Nutrition and hydration are vital if you’re running while pregnant. Your body requires approximately 300 more calories daily in the second and third trimesters because you’re growing a baby, growing your uterus, making amniotic fluid, producing breast changes and breast milk, increasing blood volume, and eating for two. That’s a lot of increased productivity! To ensure your body can handle this, you must increase your protein intake to 75 and 100 grams daily. Your body also needs increased calcium, folic acid, iron, and vitamin C, among others. Most of these items are in prenatal vitamins and added to regular food. For example, bread has added folic acid.13

In addition to extra nutrition, pregnant women need extra water intake. You may be familiar with the 8×8 reminder of how much water to drink for an adult — drink eight ounces of water eight times per day. During pregnancy, that amount should increase to 10 to 12 cups of 8 ounces per day.14,15

Potential Risks of Running During Pregnancy

If you’re running during pregnancy, you must be aware of potential risks to your and your baby’s health and well-being. As your baby and body grow bigger, any complications you already have will become more significant and more of a problem. For example, if you experience back pain during pregnancy, it will typically get worse as the pregnancy moves along. You must communicate with your provider about any new issue you notice while running, even if you think it’s minor. You may start getting muscle cramps in your calf muscles, or maybe shin splints, and think it’s just because you’re a little heavier in your pregnancy. However, it can be a potassium, sodium, or calcium deficiency, leading to early contractions or preterm labor or indicating a blood clot.17,18,19

Here are some complications that may limit your running during pregnancy:5

Tips for Running Safely During Pregnancy

Active pregnant woman running across the bridge with a beautiful view of the city of Frankfurt in Germany

There are many things to consider if you want to run safely while pregnant. Here’s a list of basic guidelines with advice from the American Pregnancy Association to get you started:2,5,10

  • First and foremost, discuss running during pregnancy with your provider and get their approval for an exercise plan.
  • Make sure to warm up and stretch for about 10 minutes before exercise.
  • Avoid lying flat on your back for too long. In this position, your uterus can press on a major vein that returns blood to your heart.
  • Dress appropriately for the activity, including proper shoe attire and a supportive or sports bra.
  • Use a flat, level surface for your exercise routine to prevent injury.
  • Count your calorie intake, as you need extra healthy calories for your pregnancy and exercise plan.
  • Don’t run on an empty stomach. This could cause nausea or make any nausea you already have worse. Try to drink or eat at least one hour before exercising.
  • Monitor and increase your water intake. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, a racing or pounding heart, and peeing only small amounts of dark yellow urine.
  • As your pregnancy advances, listen to your body and only jog as long as you feel comfortable, even if it means only 10-15 minutes.
  • Avoid standing still too long, as it can cause the blood and fluid to pool in your lower legs and feet.
  • Maintain good posture while jogging since your body’s center of gravity is different now.
  • Focus on your breathing by breathing through your mouth and from deep within your diaphragm.
  • Avoid becoming overheated. Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise outside when it’s very hot or humid.
  • After exercising, get up or move slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness. Do a gradual cool down for around five minutes.

When To Stop Running During Pregnancy

If you’re running while pregnant, the most important thing to avoid is any trauma to the abdomen. Be aware of anything that might make you fall and get hurt. You must obtain approval from your provider to run, especially in the second and third trimesters. Since it’s a rigorous, high-impact workout, you must be careful and follow your provider’s instructions every step of the way.5

Here’s a list of warning signs indicating that you need to stop running right away and contact your provider:8

  • Any vaginal discharge that’s different for you, including blood or clear fluid (could be amniotic fluid)
  • Any tightness or pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing  before exercising
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Headache that won’t go away
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Feeling off balance or muscle weakness
  • Lower back pain or contractions that persist
  • Any swelling or severe pain in the calf muscles of the lower legs

Other types of exercise and activities for pregnant women to avoid are:2

  • Activities that can lead to falls
  • Stretches that include bouncing motions (only do smooth stretching)
  • Workouts in extremely hot or humid conditions
  • Any physical contact sports and exercises with jarring motions or rapid changes in direction, including twisting at the waist while standing (these can lead to abdominal injury)
  • Any training that involves jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing
  • Intensity training, where you work out really hard in small bursts and then have periods of rest
  • Holding your breath for a long time
  • Pushing yourself to exhaustion

When Can You Return to Running Postpartum?

Some women may be able to return to their regular exercise routine as early as three to five days after delivery with clearance from their doctor, especially if there were no medical complications and the delivery was vaginal. But in most situations, it’s better to gradually move back into your physical activity routine postpartum with the guidance of your OB provider. This helps both you and your provider watch for any side effects that may creep up. It also allows you time to find any changes in your body that happened during the pregnancy, like larger feet, which means you may need new workout shoes, or larger hip width that can lead to painful hips and knees during or after training. You may need to make some adjustments to your exercises now that your body has changed after pregnancy.8

Always follow the first rule of thumb: if you were physically active before you were pregnant, you can remain active during pregnancy with your provider’s approval. They’ll help you monitor your activity and keep you and baby safe as long as it’s comfortable and no other health conditions suggest otherwise. Many exercises are safe during pregnancy, but it’s important not to overdo it and to use caution. Running is a high-impact exercise, so it’s considered a higher-risk exercise for pregnant women. Consult your OB provider about your physical activity routine to keep your pregnancy healthy.1,2

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Joanna Schroyer Registered Nurse
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Joanna is a registered nurse with 29 years of experience and expertise in pediatrics, women's health, and public health. Read more

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