Pregnant Women Don't Get Enough Exercise
Study Shows Fewer Than 1 in 4 Meet Guidelines
April 1, 2010 -- Three out of four
pregnant women in the U.S. do not get enough
exercise, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that, at
most, 23% of pregnant women engaged in as much physical activity as is
recommended by government and private health groups.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) -- the
nation’s largest organization of ob-gyns -- calls for women with uncomplicated
pregnancies to get 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise daily on most
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes
of moderate aerobic activity each week during pregnancy.
But the analysis of data from a nationally representative health survey
confirms that a minority of women are meeting these exercise goals.
Exercise Benefits Mom, Baby
Due to deliver her first
baby later this month, Nicole Rodriguez, 29, is in this minority.
A fourth-grade teacher in Nashville, Tenn., Rodriguez makes a point of
exercising at least 30 minutes a day.
A jogger before becoming pregnant, Rodriguez now swims or takes brisk walks
with her dog. Her husband, Javier -- who competes in triathlons for fun --
keeps her motivated.
“I think it has really made a difference in how I feel,” she tells WebMD.
“I’m not as awkward as I thought I would be by now. Sometimes I almost forget
Studies suggest that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy have
better outcomes, including lower rates of gestational diabetes,
In the newly published study, the University of North
Carolina researchers analyzed interviews with 1,280 pregnant women
conducted between 1999 and 2006 as part of the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey (NHANES).
Moderate intensity exercise was defined as any activity that caused light
sweating or a modest increase in breathing or
heart rate. Vigorous exercise was defined as activity that caused heavy
sweating or large increases in breathing or heart rate.
Women Exercised More in 1st Trimester
The analysis revealed that women engaged in more moderate to vigorous
exercise during their
first trimester than during their third.
While more than half of the surveyed women (56%) reported engaging in some
type of moderate to vigorous activity within the past month, no more than one
in four got as much exercise as was recommended.
The study appears in the latest issue of Preventive Medicine.
“This is the most comprehensive national examination of physical activity
during pregnancy,” study researcher Kelly Evenson, PhD, tells WebMD. “Between
14% and 23% of women met recommendations for physical activity, depending on
the definition that was used.”
Exercise Dos and Don’ts
swimming, cycling, and aerobic classes are all considered safe by ACOG
during uncomplicated pregnancies, even for women who have not exercised
regularly before becoming pregnant.
Running, racquet sports, and strength
training are also OK, in moderation, for women who have regularly engaged
in them before pregnancy.
Activities that are not recommended include downhill snow skiing, contact
sports, and scuba diving.
ACOG recommends that women who have not exercised regularly before becoming
pregnant start slowly and build up to the recommended 30-minute a day
Other recommendations include:
- Talk to you doctor before starting an exercise
- After the first trimester, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your
- Avoid exercising in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
- Wear comfortable clothing and a bra that fits well and gives lots of
- Drink plenty of water during exercise to avoid
- Stop exercising if you experience
headache, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, uterine
fetal movement, or fluid leaking from the vagina.