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Pregnancy exercises: Benefits, facts and stats

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SUMMARY

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are well documented. Numerous studies demonstrate a positive effect on both an expectant mum’s health and her baby’s health – to the extent that women are now being encouraged to get Active for 2. Pregnancy exercise does much more than improve a mother’s well-being – it can aid the development of your baby’s heart and brain too. If you’re struggling to find motivation, these facts about the benefits of pregnancy exercise may help get you started.

For Mum


Reduced incidence of lower back pain 1

A 30% reduction in the risk of gestation diabetes 4

Reduced likelihood of unplanned caesarean 5,6

Lower incidence 3 and reduced severity 7 of depression

Less pregnancy weight gain 6

Lower risk of urinary incontinence 8

Reduce incidents of pregnancy constipation 9

Less pregnancy tiredness 10

For Baby


A healthier heart 9

Normal birth weight 10

Quicker to develop neurologically 11

Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome (for infants of high-risk women) 12

Why exercise in pregnancy?

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are becoming increasingly evident. Pregnancy exercise can improve an expectant mum’s experience of pregnancy in many ways. Studies show that exercising mothers:

  • Experience less lower back pain1, pregnancy constipation2 and tiredness3
  • Are 30% less likely to develop gestational diabetes4
  • Are less likely to need an unplanned caesarean5,6
  • Experience fewer incidences3 and reduced severity7 of depression
  • Gain less weight during pregnancy6
  • Are less likely to develop urinary incontinence8

The benefits for your baby could last them a lifetime. Babies born to mothers who exercise in pregnancy are more likely to:

  • Develop a healthier heart with a lower resting heart rate after birth9
  • Be born at what is considered a ‘normal’ birth weight, rather than overweight10
  • Be born with more mature brains11 and are quicker to develop neurologically
  • Experience a reduced risk of respiratory distress at birth (if born to high-risk mothers)12

If you’re feeling motivated to get Active for 2, read more about how to exercise safely during pregnancy and which exercises to avoid. Just be sure to speak to your doctor or midwife before you begin.

Dr Dawn Harper

Dr Dawn Harper

“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”
- @DrDawnHarper


View references

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1. Pennick V, Liddle SD. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013(CD0011):1-100.

2. Shi W et al. Epidemiology and risk factors of functional constipation in pregnant women. PloS one 2015;10(7):e0133521.

3. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.

4. Sanabria‐Martínez G et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta‐analysis. BJOG 2015;122(9):1167-74.

5. Price BB et al. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(12):2263-9.

6. Domenjoz I et al. Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.

7. Robledo-Colonia AF et al. Aerobic exercise training during pregnancy reduces depressive symptoms in nulliparous women: a randomised trial. J Physiother 2012;58(1):9-15.

8. Perales M et al. Benefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review. Early Hum Dev 2016;94:43-8.

9. May LE et al. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability. Early Hum Dev 2010;86(4):213-7.

10. Bisson M et al. Physical activity volumes during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association with infant's birth weight. AJP Reports 2016;6(02):e170-e97.

11. Labonte-Lemoyne E et al. Exercise during pregnancy enhances cerebral maturation in the newborn: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2016:1-8.

12. Muktabhant B et al. Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Jun 15;(6):CD007145.

Last reviewed: 9th December 2016
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