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Exercise in Pregnancy: Effect on Fitness and Obstetric Outcomes—A Randomized Trial


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 12 - p 2263–2269
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318267ad67
Clinical Sciences

Objective A prospective randomized controlled trial was designed to assess the benefits and possible risks of aerobic exercise during pregnancy, using a fitness regimen based on the 2002 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines for exercise during pregnancy.

Methods Inactive women were randomized at 12–14 wk gestation to a group that remained sedentary or to a group that performed moderate aerobic exercise 45–60 min, 4 d·wk−1, through 36 wk gestation. Thirty-one subjects in each group completed the study.

Results Compared with women who remained sedentary, active women improved aerobic fitness (P < 0.05) and muscular strength (P < 0.01), delivered comparable size infants with significantly fewer cesarean deliveries (P < 0.01), and recovered faster postpartum (P < 0.05), at least related to the lower incidence of cesarean section. Active women developed no gestational hypertension (P = 0.16 compared with controls) and reported no injuries related to the exercise regimen. In the active group, there was one premature birth at 33 wk by a woman with a history of premature delivery of twins at 34 wk. There were no differences between groups in the incidence of gestational diabetes, musculoskeletal pains during pregnancy, flexibility on sit-and-reach test, mean length of pregnancy, neonatal Apgar scores, placenta weights, overall length of labor, weight gain during pregnancy, or weight retention postpartum.

Conclusion Previously sedentary women who began exercising at 12–14 wk improved fitness and delivery outcomes.

1Professional Association, Austin, TX; 2George Washington University, Washington, DC; and 3NeuroTexas Institute, St. David’s Health Care System, Austin, TX

Address for correspondence: Bradley B. Price, M.D., Professional Association, 2911 Medical Arts St.#6, 2911 Medical Arts St.#6, Austin, TX; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2011.

Accepted for publication June 2012.

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine