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Moderate physical activity during pregnancy benefits both mother and child, advise researchers

Pregnancy does not have to be a hindrance to staying fit and healthy. A team of researchers from Camilo José Cela University in Spain suggests pregnant women to continue doing moderate physical activities to improve their health as well as their child’s.

Living an unhealthy lifestyle during pregnancy can increase the risk of health problems, and can also lead to the risk of giving birth through cesarean section. Unfortunately, many women lack exercise during pregnancy because they don’t know what type of exercise they should do and avoid.

However, pregnant women should not worry about being physically active anymore. The Spanish research team has confirmed through strong scientific evidence that moderate exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for both the mother and the baby in the womb.

One of the benefits is the prevention of obesity or excessive weight gain. Another is a reduced risk of fetal macrosomia or giving birth to babies weighing more than 4 kg. Performing moderate physical activity during pregnancy also lowers the risk of cesarean section delivery, gestational diabetes, lower back pain, pelvic pain, pre-eclampsia, and urinary incontinence.

Exercise during pregnancy may also reduce backaches, bloating, constipation, and swelling. It can also boost the mother’s energy, enhance her mood, improve her posture, promote muscle tone, endurance, and strength, and improve sleep. (Related: Pregnant women who exercise are 20% less likely to develop gestational diabetes.)

In addition, moderate physical activity during pregnancy does not increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, or fetal distress – given that the mother is healthy and does not have a medical or obstetric contraindication for physical exercise.

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Types of exercise pregnant women should do and avoid

The Spanish research team defined the physical exercise patterns during pregnancy that have shown significant physiological benefits for both the mother and child. Experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) emphasized the importance of combining aerobic and resistance training in every session. One session should last for 45 to 65 minutes, over three or four days per week.

The experts also suggested that the intensity should always be moderate. Pregnant women can start exercising between week nine and 12 of pregnancy until week 38 to 39. Exercises like Pilates and yoga are typically recommended during this period. These techniques are associated with improvements in mental health and pain relief.

With regards to the type of exercise that should be avoided, the experts noted avoiding all strenuous physical activities. These may increase the risk of hypothermia, dehydration, or decreased uterine blood flow with the associated risk of compromising the health of the baby. Intense weight training and isometric contraction training, impact exercises, jumps, long-distance running, and exercises with the risk of falling or in an outstretched supine position (lying on your back) must also be avoided.

“The exercises recommended in our study should be performed not only by healthy pregnant women, but also by sedentary females prior to pregnancy since this is a good time to adopt a physically active lifestyle,” said Maria Perales, the lead author of the study.

The team noted that this recommendation also applies to women at risk of being overweight or obese, as well as those at risk of gestational diabetes and chronic hypertension.

Read more articles about tips on how you can stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy at

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