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Gestational Diabetes: Safe Exercise - Topic Overview

Exercise is an important part of treating gestational diabetes. It can help lower your blood sugar level. It also can improve your posture, relieve back pain and other discomforts related to pregnancy, and prepare you for the challenge of childbirth. If you exercise regularly, you may be able to avoid having to take insulin. If you do take insulin, regular exercise may make it possible for you to take a smaller amount.

Most women can begin or continue to exercise during pregnancy. Try to do at least 2½ hours of moderate exercise a week.1, 2 One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

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If you have never exercised regularly or were not exercising before you became pregnant, talk with your doctor before you start exercising. Exercise that does not place too much stress on your lower body—such as using an arm ergometer, a machine that just works your arm muscles; or riding a recumbent bicycle, a type of bike with a seat that looks like a chair—are especially good for pregnant women. You may also want to try special exercise classes for pregnant women or other low-impact activities such as swimming or walking.

Avoid overheating and dehydration

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it's hot out and when you do intense exercise.

Stay at your prepregnancy level of fitness

In the early stages of pregnancy, most women can do the same type of exercise they were doing before pregnancy including jogging, biking, roller-skating, or skiing. As your pregnancy advances, you may want to slow down or do less strenuous activities such as walking and swimming.

Be careful

Unless you are a competitive athlete, avoid strenuous activity, and exercise in moderation. You should be able to talk while working out and you should never feel exhausted. Stop and call your doctor if you notice any symptoms such as:

  • Excessive fatigue or shortness of breath.
  • Pain or cramping (especially in your back or pelvic area).
  • Vaginal bleeding or leakage of fluid.
  • Dizziness.
  • Pounding heartbeat or unusual sensations in your chest.
  • Persistent contractions.
  • Decreased fetal movement.
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