High blood sugar among pregnant women can increase the risk of birth complications. Exercising during pregnancy may be a way to reduce the risk of high blood sugar in the second and third trimester.
A recent study tested blood sugar levels in pregnant women who either exercised three days per week or did not exercise during their pregnancies.
The results of this study showed steadier levels of blood sugar and slightly less weight gain among pregnant moms who exercised compared with those who did not.
In a recent study, Ruben Barakat, PhD, associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain, led a group to investigate the relationship between a pregnant woman's exercise and her high blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that all pregnant women be screened for high blood sugar between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, unless they are at low risk.
High blood sugar during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes, which occurs in roughly 4 to 12 percent of pregnancies. Women who are older, overweight or obese, and/or have a family history of type 2 diabetes are considered at-risk for developing gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can often lead to high birth weight, birth complications and increase the risk for a caesarean section (C-section) delivery.
Having gestational diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean the mother had diabetes before her pregnancy or will have diabetes after her pregnancy. However, roughly 50 percent of women who experience gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five years after giving birth.
Previous research has suggested that gestational diabetes can lead to higher rates of obesity and diabetes as the child grows into adolescence and young adulthood.
For this study, 83 healthy pregnant women were split into either an exercise group or a no-exercise group.
Women in the exercise group participated in a group activity program led by an athletic trainer for 35 to 45 minutes, three times per week.
The pregnant women participated in the exercise program from the initial 6-9 weeks through the duration of the pregnancy.
The exercise program activities included strength training and toning, aerobic workouts, light stretching, walking and aquatic activities. Choreographed dancing was used for the low-impact aerobic workouts.
Ten women in the exercise group and seven women in the no-exercise group dropped out of the study for medical or personal reasons before giving birth.
On average, the women in the no-exercise group gained 2.9 pounds more during their pregnancies than the women in the exercise group.
No women in the exercise group developed gestational diabetes, compared to 7 percent of the women in the no-exercise group.
On average, babies born to the women in the exercise group weighed only slightly less at 7.5 pounds compared to babies born to women in the no-exercise group at 7.6 pounds.
Overall, 30 percent of women in the exercise group had a C-section compared to 14 percent of women in the no-exercise group. The researchers noted that these results were not consistent with previous studies.
The study authors concluded that exercise during pregnancy helped to reduce rates of gestational diabetes and tempered weight gain among pregnant mothers.
This study was published in July in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.