Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Benefits of an Active Pregnancy

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Benefits of an Active Pregnancy

Article excerpt

The benefits of being physically active are well-known. Individuals who are physically active are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Additionally, physical activity has been shown to improve our psychological health.

Yet, there seems to be confusion regarding the intensity level and types of physical activities that are appropriate for pregnant women. Despite this confusion, being physically active during pregnancy has many proven benefits for both baby and mom.

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

It is important for women to be physically active during their pregnancy because doing so reduces the chance of developing many pregnancy-related health risks such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and pre-term birth. Furthermore, women who exercise while pregnant are more likely to experience improved postpartum recovery, self-esteem and body image, as well as increased quality of life. Lastly, sedentary behaviors have been associated with increased health risks for the baby (e.g., increased heart rate and fat mass). Despite the many benefits of being physically active during pregnancy, most pregnant women do not meet the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines for physical activity.

Guidelines and Limitations

For women who do not have any medical complications (e.g., placenta previa), ACOG recommends approximately 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. While this recommendation may not seem like a lot of physical activity, less than 30 percent of pregnant women meet these guidelines and those who do tend to be younger and better educated. Also, the likelihood of pregnant women meeting the physical activity guidelines when they have another child in the home decreases significantly.

When asked why they are not physically active, pregnant women report barriers including a lack of time, not enough energy/being too tired, physical limitations and not knowing if it is safe to be physically active. While the two most commonly reported barriers to being physically active are not unique to pregnant women (i.e., most people say they do not have the time or the energy to engage in physical activity), physical limitations and not understanding if physical activity is safe are two distinctive factors related to sedentary behavior during pregnancy.

Many women report discomfort and physical limitations as a result of physical changes experienced during pregnancy. The likelihood of experiencing pregnancy-related physical discomfort increases toward the end of their pregnancy with common symptoms, including shortness of breath, overall body soreness and leg cramps. Despite the physical discomforts, pregnancy is still viewed as a time when women should prioritize their health. Research has demonstrated that while women believe that exercising during pregnancy improves their pregnancy-related symptoms and mood, a majority of pregnant women experience a drop in their physical activity levels during pregnancy and post-partum as compared to their pre-pregnancy levels.

What's Safe?

As a result of misguided information, many pregnant women have skewed perceptions of what physical activities are safe. For instance, most pregnant women view vigorous exercise (i.e., exercises that induce heavy breathing to the point of hardly being able to talk) as unsafe. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.