Exercise in Pregnancy Curbs Excessive Weight Gain, but Only for Some

March 17, 2014

Exercise during pregnancy prevented excessive gestational weight gain, but the benefit of the intervention was not observed in the groups most at risk.

Light to moderate exercise during pregnancy prevented excessive gestational weight gain, especially in women of normal weight, according to the results of a recently published randomized controlled trial.

Researchers divided 962 healthy pregnant women into two groups between 2007 and 2011. The women were assigned after their first prenatal visit. The exercise group was instructed to engage in light to moderate aerobic exercise three times a week for 50 to 55 minutes. The exercise program was conducted from weeks 9 through 39 of the pregnancy. The control group was given the standard recommendations offered to any pregnant woman. 

Pertinent Points

- Exercise, three times a week, for pregnant women
with normal BMI prevented excessive gestational weight gain, according to a recent study.

- Obese and overweight women, however, did not have the same treatment effect.

Overall, women in the exercise group gained less weight (adjusted mean difference 1.039 kg; 95% CI, 0.534-1.545 kg; P<0.001) and were less likely to gain weight above the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations (odds ratio, 0.625; 95% CI, 0.461-0.847) compared with those in the standard care group, according to the results.

The risk of gaining weight in excess of the IOM recommendations was 40% lower in the women who followed the exercise regimen. Specifically, normal-weight women gained less weight (adjusted mean difference, 1.393 kg; 95% CI, 0.813-1.972 kg; P<.001) and were less likely to gain weight above the IOM recommendations (odds ratio, 0.508; 95% CI, 0.334-0.774) than normal-weight women who received standard care. While assignment to the exercise group curbed weight gain in normal-weight women, according to body mass index, the same effect was not observed in overweight or obese women.

Alejandro Lucía, MD, PhD, one of the researchers and professor of exercise physiology at the European University, suggested in a statement that physicians should consider prescribing personal exercise programs to patients.

Jonatan Ruiz, PhD, the lead author and a Ramón y Cajal researcher at the Faculty of Sports Science of the University of Granada, pointed out that the study showed the benefits of regular physical activity during pregnancy are the same as the established benefits in the general population. “Pregnancy is an ideal time to change habits and to adopt a physically-active lifestyle during this period and for the rest of life," he said.

References:

Ruiz JR, Perales M, Pelaez M, et al. Supervised exercise-based intervention to prevent excessive gestational weight gain: a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proceedings. 2013;88:1388-1397.