Exercising, for two

Research undercuts beliefs about strenuous training and pregnancy
Female athletes seem to be able to exercise safely and intensively both before and during pregnancy without increasing their risk for birth-related complications, even if they are trekking up Mount Everest, according to two eye-opening new studies. Together, the new research undercuts widely held beliefs about strenuous physical training and pregnancy.As anyone who has experienced pregnancy knows, it is physically taxing. That cherished little foetus-slash-vampire requires a share of its mother’s blood, fuel and oxygen. The mother’s body adapts to the child’s needs, adding blood vessels and volume, but the environment inside the womb remains almost otherworldly, with levels of oxygen flowing to the baby that are similar to those in the thin air near the top of Mount Everest, according to past research.
Existing guidelines
Experts generally agree that moderate activity is healthy and advisable for most pregnant women. Current exercise guidelines recommend that pregnant women complete about 150 minutes per week of brisk walking or other moderate exercise, the same recommendation as for people who are not pregnant. But some experts worry that strenuous exercise, such as intensive running, cycling or weight training, could tire out or injure a pregnant woman and possibly rob her child of oxygen or nutrients. But there has been surprisingly little research into the actual effects of vigorous activity on pregnancy and delivery. So for one of the new studies, which was published in September in the British Journal of Sports Medicine , researchers from the University of Iceland and other Nordic institutions decided to look at birth outcomes among a group of national team and other elite athletes, who, by definition, train intensively. They asked 130 elite female athletes and mothers about their training in the three years before they gave birth and during their pregnancies. Some of the athletes competed in sports that involved pounding and impact, such as running and soccer. Others engaged in lower-impact sports like swimming and equestrian events. The researchers also asked about the exercise habits before and during pregnancy of 118 Icelandic mothers who were not athletes. Then (with permission), they examined records in the Icelandic Medical Birth Registry about each woman’s labour and delivery. The resulting data showed that the athletes, many of whom had trained into their second trimesters or beyond, had experienced healthy pregnancies and few delivery complications. Their labour was not more prolonged than in the control group, and they were no more likely to need an emergency caesarean. Statistically, they also were less likely overall to experience a serious perineal tear during delivery than the control group, especially those athletes who competed in high-impact sports. “The lesson of these results is that elite athletes should not expect more difficulties in childbirth than other women,” says Thorgerdur Sigurdardottir, a doctoral student at the University of Iceland who led the study. These two studies obviously are small, tightly focussed on athletes and, in the case of the Nepalese Sherpa, singular, so the results may not be meaningful for other pregnant women wondering how much they should exercise. “It is important to assess training during pregnancy on an individual basis and talk to your health care providers if there is anything you are concerned about,” Sigurdardottir says.NY TIMES
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/exercising-for-two/article25217564.ece

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