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Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e000296
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ open sport & exercise medicine
Issue number1
Early online date4 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Apr 2018

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King's Authors


Background: Increasingly, women of reproductive age participate in recreational running, but its impact on pregnancy outcome is unknown. We investigated whether running affects gestational age at delivery and birth weight as indicators of cervical integrity and placental function, respectively.

Methods: 1293 female participants were recruited from parkrun, which organises weekly runs involving 1.25 million runners across 450 parks worldwide. Those under 16 or unable to provide outcome data were excluded. Women were categorised according to whether they continued to run during pregnancy or not. Those who continued were further stratified dependent on average weekly kilometres, and which trimester they ran until. Retrospectively collected primary outcomes were gestational age at delivery and birthweight centile. Other outcomes included assisted vaginal delivery rate and prematurity at clinically important gestations.

Results: There was no significant difference in gestational age at delivery: 279.0 vs 279.6 days (mean difference 0.6 days, CI -1.3 to 2.4 days; P=0.55) or birthweight centile: 46.9%vs 44.9% (mean difference 2.0%, CI -1.3% to -5.3%; P=0.22) in women who stopped running and those who continued, respectively. Assisted vaginal delivery rate was increased in women who ran: 195/714 (27%) vs 128/579 (22%) (OR 1.32; CI 1.02 to 1.71; P=0.03).

Conclusion: Continuing to run during pregnancy does not appear to affect gestational age or birthweight centile, regardless of mean weekly distance or stage of pregnancy. Assisted vaginal delivery rates were higher in women who ran, possibly due to increased pelvic floor muscle tone. Randomised prospective analysis is necessary to further explore these findings.

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