The findings of the largest ever study of running in pregnancy have been published this month thanks to the contribution of 1,293 women parkrunners from around the world.
The results appear in this month’s BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, an open access journal covering all aspects of sport and exercise medicine, and are good news for pregnant women. The study concluded that there were no ill effects related to intensity or frequency of running, and continuing throughout pregnancy was also safe.
After seeking approvals, all women with a prior pregnancy were invited to respond via the parkrun newsletter in November 2014. Women parkrunners from around the world responded, making the study truly global. Details of previous pregnancies were collated, including gestation of delivery, birthweight and pregnancy complications. These were related to expected baby size by taking into account mothers’ ethnicity, height, weight, and baby’s gender, allowing an accurate assessment of running impact on pregnancy.
Professor Andy Shennan, an academic obstetrician (pregnancy doctor) from Kings College London who lead the study said: “With more than 2.8 million parkrunners across the globe, many will be of reproductive age. With parkrun’s assistance, in the biggest ever study of running in pregnancy, we have determined that this is safe. Women can continue accustomed exercise during pregnancy and we would encourage this to ensure a healthy outcome for both her and her baby.
“One woman ran a marathon the day before she delivered at term, while others ran regular half marathons throughout pregnancy. Even women with triplets enjoyed parkrun regularly. Of course, some women had problems, but these were no more likely to occur than in women who stopped running. Exercise is recommended in pregnancy, which provides excellent preparation for birth and accustomed exercise can continue throughout pregnancy. It is good to know that this advice is applicable to running.”
The data was enthusiastically received when presented at the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) World Congress in Cape Town in March 2017, where Dr Katy Kuhrt won best oral presentation. Furthermore, this study and other research from parkrun is being presented at the upcoming 7th ISPAH Congress (International Society for Physical Activity and Health).
The origins of the study have also paved the way for other critical research projects to be undertaken with the help of the parkrun community. The idea for this particular piece of research, initiated by Professor Shennan, led to the development of the parkrun Research Board, which now receives more than 30 research requests from Senior academics and PhD and undergraduate students annually and is based at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University.
The Kings College London research team, all avid parkrunners, would like to thank all the women who helped with this important research, which will reassure women throughout the world. Andy runs at Bushy parkrun and is happy to answer any queries about the research. Click here to get in touch.
Natasha Hezelgrave, one of the research team, out running at full term. She delivered a healthy baby boy, Rafferty, two weeks later on 11 March at 40 weeks.
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