Physical activity during pregnancy is important for women’s general health and may reduce the risk of adverse maternal, fetal and neonatal outcomes.
Current recommendations advise pregnant women without medical or obstetric complications to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Randomized controlled trials have shown that the uptake of regular exercise among sedentary pregnant women has significant benefits for women in pregnancy.
Specifically, women who participated in three hours of weekly vigorous exercise in pregnancy reported greater satisfaction with their physical stamina, energy levels, appearance and general health than sedentary pregnant women. Pregnant women who were overweight, participation in three hours of aerobic exercise per week was associated with higher fitness levels as demonstrated by increased oxygen uptake, than over- weight women who remained sedentary.
Exercise also appears to have benefits for neonates, with the uptake of moderate-intensity exercise in pregnancy being associated with normal fetal growth. However, some women may have difficulty meeting current recommendations, or participating in physical activity altogether during pregnancy because of health and psychosocial factors. Women’s physical health and health behavior before and during pregnancy may be important predictors of physical activity during pregnancy.
Women who have a high pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) are less likely to be physically active in pregnancy. On the other hand, pre-pregnancy physical activity has been associated with remaining physically active during pregnancy. Remaining active during pregnancy may be beneficial for women’s well-being, with one study showing that exercise during the first trimester of pregnancy was related to reduced reporting of nausea and vomiting in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.
Physical symptoms are common and normal in pregnancy, but they may deter or prevent some women from exercising during pregnancy.