Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Exercise during Pregnancy and the Gestational Age Distribution: A Cohort Study


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 6 - p 1067–1074
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182442fc9

Purpose The study’s purpose was to examine the associations between exercise performed at different time points during pregnancy and gestational age (GA) in a population-based cohort study.

Methods Data included 61,098 singleton pregnancies enrolled between 2000 and 2006 in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Self-reported exercise was collected from two questionnaires in pregnancy weeks 17 and 30. GA was determined on the basis of the expected date of delivery according to ultrasound, as registered in the Medical Birth Registry of Norway. We used logistic regression to analyze preterm (<37 completed weeks) and postterm births (≥42 wk). Comparison of mean GA by exercise levels was estimated by a general linear model.

Results Mean GA for women exercising three to five times a week in week 17 was 39.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 39.48–39.54) compared with 39.34 (95% CI = 39.30–39.37) completed weeks for nonexercisers (P < 0.001). Mean differences remained for all categories of exercise after adjusting for confounding with the greatest mean difference between exercising three to five times per week in week 17 and nonexercisers (equals 1 d). Similar mean differences in GA were observed by exercise levels in week 30. The greatest protective effect on risk of preterm birth was observed for women exercising three to five times a week in week 17 or 30 (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.73–0.91 and aOR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.65–0.83, respectively) compared with nonexercisers. On the other hand, women exercising one to two or three to five times per week in week 17 were slightly more likely to have a postterm birth (aOR = 1.14, 95% CI = 1.04–1.24 and aOR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.04–1.26, respectively). Mean GA did not differ by type of exercise performed during pregnancy.

Conclusions Exercise performed during pregnancy shifted the GA distribution slightly upward resulting in reduced preterm births and slightly increased postterm births.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

1Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, NORWAY; 2Department of Chronic Diseases, Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, NORWAY; 3Section for Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bergen, Bergen, NORWAY; and 4Medical Birth Registry of Norway, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Bergen, NORWAY

Address for correspondence: Katrine Mari Owe, M.Sci., Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, PO Box 4014, Ullevål Stadion, Sognsveien 220, NO-0806 Oslo, Norway; E-mail:

Submitted for publication April 2011.

Accepted for publication October 2011.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citationsappear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine