I was on a local running trail last night with a few of my cross country runners and we ran by a pregnant woman pushing a baby jogger. She caught my eye, not just because of her bump, but also because she was wearing black exercise tights…and it was 98 degrees! She was running at a slow pace, and was smiling, so I’m sure she was fine, but my alarm bells were ringing. As I have confessed before on this website, I am a hypocrite when it comes to seeing pregant women running. Although I ran through each of my nine pregnancies, except my first (I started getting cramps at six months and so stopped running), I still wanted to scream at that woman to stop running and get out of the heat!
Women have come a long way when it comes to fitness and pregnancy. It is now perfectly acceptable for women who were in shape before becoming pregnant, to run and exercise during pregnancy. However, the heat of summertime adds another element that pregnant women need to be weary of. The following are some guidelines for pregnant women (compiled from American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology ACOG and other sources) to think about and to follow when exercising outdoors in the summer heat:
1. Workout in the morning or evening…avoiding the direct sunlight of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..
2. Stay hydrated (before, during, and after exercise). The 8 glass a day rule is a good one to follow…just remember that is for non-exercise days, so increase it according to the time and effort of your workout. I realize this will keep you making trips to the bathroom, but those are the sacrifices we make, right?
3. Listen to your body. Usually we can feel signs that something is off…watch for those signs, and don’t ignore them! Some warning signs to watch for: sudden swelling of ankles, face or hands; onset/persistent headache; excessive fatigue; persistent contractions (6-8 an hour); elevation of pulse rate that persists after exercise.
4.Wear light, absorbant clothing while exercising. There are lots of options for pregnant workout gear with high-tech fibers that wick the sweat away from your body. Although I bought most maternity wear at resale shops, I bought a few good quality running/workout clothes each pregnancy.
5. Exercise indoors if it is above 90 degrees. If it is a workout you are looking for, stay inside and try some of these exercises from the mutusystem. If you would like to just get out and move a little, go out early or late and follow the above guidelines.
Interestingly, research has shown that the body’s ability to regulate heat improves during pregnancy and is a natural adaptation to protect the baby. One aspect of this improved heat regulation is that a woman starts sweating sooner in the heat than if she were not pregnant. Sweating is important! According to Tim Noakes, MD, author of the Lore of Running, there have been studies that show that the body temperature at any workload falls with gestation, owing to an enhanced capacity of the pregnant female to lose body heat during exercise. In other words, he says, moderate exercise would not seem to pose any thermal dangers to the baby.
Noakes points out, however, that an elevated maternal temperature (hyperthermia), from whatever cause, may be detrimental to the baby, especially if the maternal temperature exceeds 39.2 degrees C. during the first three months of the pregnancy. Obviously, each woman should speak to her doctor if she has any questions or concerns regarding exercising outdoors in the summer. I really like what Noakes says about the bottom line, too. He says there are two gold standards against which the effects of exercise during pregnancy must be measured. The first is the well-being of the baby: does exercise during pregnancy jeopardize or enhance the health of the baby at birth and during developmental years? Second, does exercise increase the risk of complications either before or during labor? Up to this point scientific evidence has not shown that any moderate exercise maintained during pregnancy has any detrimental effects on these factors. Rather, exercise seems to have many beneficial effects.
What are some good exercise suggestions for women who are pregnant this summer? Please share!