Graeme brings us his thoughts as printed in The Daily Express on Paula Radcliffe and running through pregnancy...
The fact that Paula has continued to run during pregnancy may well have raised a few eyebrows, but exercise is such an individual thing that it is impossible to say whether or not it would be safe for everyone.
Let’s remember that we are talking about one of the world’s elite athletes, someone whose body is trained and conditioned to the highest level for running. There are in fact many women who continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy, although like Paula they generally find that the intensity they train at tends to reduce as the pregnancy progresses. One study found that nearly half of women of childbearing age report exercising during pregnancy and express a strong desire to continue to do so.
The obvious challenges in researching this area mean that there are more guidelines than definitive answers to how much or how long you should exercise for. The first rule though is to learn to listen to what your body is telling you, as it has a way of letting you know when you are doing too much.
Fortunately there has been a lot of research on the general benefits of exercising through pregnancy and on how the body alters to accommodate the baby.
Contrary to what some people may think, it has been shown to have a multitude of benefits to both mother and baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) who are the worlds leading authority on exercise and pregnancy strongly support exercise as part of a future mums lifestyle. However, as with all exercise, the benefits need to be weighed against the risks and workouts altered to match. Things to avoid include activities that may involve contact or falling (such as skiing, skating, rugby), those with little research such as scuba diving that could potentially be dangerous, and anything that raises body temperature excessively. There are many other changes in the body during this time and they include the release of a hormone called Relaxin that can cause an excessive amount of laxity around the joints (hypermobility). For this reason, if you are going to run it is best to avoid uneven ground where it may be easier to sprain an ankle or knee.
If you haven’t run before then it is best not to take it up while you are pregnant. You should start with something very gentle and progressive under the guidance of a professional. You should also speak to your doctor or consultant first to ensure that you have no conditions that may make extra activity dangerous such as high blood pressure or anaemia. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest a multitude of physical and psychological benefits to women from exercise during pregnancy, not to mention those who do exercise tend to keep it up afterwards and continue to enjoy improved health and wellbeing. With all this in mind we can see that Paula Radcliffe is an example of how being pregnant and exercising can actually work very well together.