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Pregnant Women Don't Get Enough Exercise

Study Shows Fewer Than 1 in 4 Meet Guidelines
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

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 days.

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 I’m pregnant.”

Studies suggest that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy have better outcomes, including lower rates of gestational diabetes, hypertension, and depression.

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.

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