Moderate aerobic exercise appears to help overweight women get fit during pregnancy, according to new study findings.
Specifically, overweight women who participated in three one-hour exercise sessions each week became fitter over the course of their pregnancies, while overweight women who did not exercise became less fit.
Study author Iracema Athayde Santos of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil said that these results will hopefully inspire women to exercise, and not just during pregnancy.
However, the researcher cautioned that pregnant women should first speak with an expert in exercise during pregnancy, and avoid workouts that put them at risk of falls, such as tennis, cycling and basketball.
“Recommended activities include swimming, hydrogymnastics, walking, gymnastics of low impact and stationary bicycles,” Santos noted.
However, as the researchers note in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, little research exists on the benefits of exercise in pregnancy, so many doctors do not recommend activity for most pregnant women.
To investigate whether moderate exercise helps overweight women get fit during their pregnancies, the researchers asked 132 overweight women less than 20 weeks pregnant to participate in either three 1-hour exercise sessions each week, including walking or pedaling a stationary bike, or weekly discussion groups and relaxation programs.
Twelve weeks later, the investigators found that women who exercised had increased oxygen uptake, a sign that they had become fitter. In contrast, women who didn’t exercise exhibited decreases in their oxygen uptake.
Being overweight in pregnancy is associated with a number of health risks, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature birth, the researcher explained.
Hopefully, these results will encourage pregnant women to “do more physical activity and discover the pleasure of healthy active lifestyle,” Santos concluded.
SOURCE: Obstetrics & Gynecology, August 2005.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD