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Prenatal Care

Pregnant Women Need More Physical Activity

Pregnant women are not accumulating enough physical activity to meet recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which advise 30 minutes of moderate activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Women who were not pregnant were more apt to be active than pregnant women, generally meeting vigorous or moderate physical activity recommendations, found a study.

The study compared the extent to which women are meeting physical activity recommendations and whether physical activity levels differ between pregnant and non-pregnant women.

Women who were not pregnant were more apt to be active than pregnant women, generally meeting vigorous or moderate physical activity recommendations.

Walking was the most common activity for both groups of women, a report on the study results said. Pregnant women who did get the recommended amount of activity were more likely to be younger, non-Hispanic white, more educated, married, nonsmokers and have higher incomes.

Four years' worth of data and a sample of 150,259 pregnant and non-pregnant women from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were used in the study to evaluate physical activity recommendations. The women were grouped into multiple categories based on their level of activity during the course of a month: vigorous activity (meeting guidelines); moderate activity (meeting guidelines); moderate or vigorous activity (not meeting guidelines); irregular activity, or no physical activity.

The research team noted the importance of the results for healthcare providers, indicating a clear call for the need to promote physical activity during uncomplicated pregnancies.

"Pregnant women should exercise unless advised otherwise by their physician because of medical or obstetric complications observed during their pregnancy," said Terry Leet, Ph.D., one of the study authors. "Women beginning an exercise program during pregnancy should perform moderate, non-weight-bearing activities, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling."

"Women exercising prior to their pregnancy should continue their activities, except for contact sports, scuba diving, or other activities that might possibly cause abdominal distress," said Leet..

"Beyond the importance for the health of the mother and the baby, staying active and flexible aids in the recovery process of childbirth and also can help with postpartum weight maintenancefor the mother," the researcher said.

The study results were published in a recent issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM's official journal.

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