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Competing in the Olympics During Pregnancy

Written by Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM

As more and more high-level female athletes continue their exercise routines while pregnant, it is inevitable that one or more of them might compete in the Olympics. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, a shooter on the Malaysian Olympic team is competing in her eighth month.

Concerns with women exercising and competing intensely while pregnant usually focus on heat dissipation, energy availability, and possibility of blunt force trauma during competition. However, for a shooter, these are of little to no concern.

The most relevant issue would likely be the competitor's heart rate, as sharpshooters usually fire between heart beats. In fact, many competitive shooters exercise simply for the benefit of a lower resting heart rate, which gives them a larger window of opportunity to get off a shot. During pregnancy, a woman's resting heart rate typically increases, sometimes as much as 10-20 beats per minute. While Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi has likely adapted to this increased heart rate phenomenon over the course of her pregnancy, it will be interesting to see how it might affect her Olympic performance.

We wish her the best.

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James Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM, Fellow and Past President of ACSM. He is a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University, where he directs the Center for Physical Activity and Health. A nationally recognized expert on issues related to exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period, Dr. Pivarnik was honored to be a torchbearer for the 2010 Winter Games (Calgary). 

Note: The views expressed in ACSM Olympics Hot Topics are those of the contributors only, and should not be construed as official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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