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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Review Underscores Health Benefits of Physical Activity During Pregnancy

Previous studies have shown that – at best – only one in three pregnant women is exercising enough, despite the known health benefits and guidelines set forth by several leading health organizations.

“Exercise carries a host of health benefits for both mom and baby, but we are clearly falling short in encouraging pregnant women to stay physically active or in helping them address barriers to doing so,” says Dr. Kelly Evenson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

To encourage greater education about physical activity recommendations as part of routine clinical care for pregnant women, Dr. Evenson and her team conducted a careful review and comparison of three national guidelines and one international guideline on physical activity during pregnancy. The paper, “Review of Recent Physical Activity Guidelines During Pregnancy to Facilitate Advice by Health Care Providers,” for which she is lead author, was published in the August issue of Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey.

Physical activity has been linked with a lower risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, new onset diabetes during pregnancy, cesarean section, excessive weight gain and preterm birth, as well as a shorter length of labor. During the postpartum period, it also is associated with shorter recovery time and reduced symptoms of depression.

“Each of the four guidelines, which are informed by the latest evidence, align in their recommendation that apparently healthy pregnant women, under the guidance of their health care provider, should take part in regular light and moderate intensity aerobic and muscle conditioning activities,” Dr. Evenson says.

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