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Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review

Nascimento, Simony L.; Surita, Fernanda G.; Cecatti, José G.

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: December 2012 - Volume 24 - Issue 6 - p 387–394
doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e328359f131
WOMEN'S HEALTH: Edited by Joseph Aquilina

Purpose of review This review aims to provide an update on the recent evidence concerning exercise during pregnancy including effects for mother and fetus and the types, frequency, intensity, duration and rate of progression of exercise performed.

Recent findings Exercises during pregnancy are associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness, prevention of urinary incontinence and low back pain, reduced symptoms of depression, gestational weight gain control, and for cases of gestational diabetes, reduced number of women who required insulin. There is no association with reduction in birth weight or preterm birth rate. The type of exercise shows no difference on results, and its intensity should be mild or moderate for previous sedentary women and moderate to high for active women. The exercise recommendations still are based on the current guidelines on moderate-intensity, low-impact, aerobic exercise at least three times a week. Yet, new guidelines propose increasing weekly physical-activity expenditure while incorporating vigorous exercise and adding light strength training to the exercise routine of healthy pregnant women. In the case of other chronic diseases like hypertension, there are still few data, and therefore more studies should be performed to assess the safety of the intervention.

Summary Physical exercise is beneficial for women during pregnancy and also in the postpartum period; it is not associated with risks for the newborn and can lead to changes in lifestyle that imply long-term benefits.

Obstetric Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Campinas, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Correspondence to Simony L. Nascimento, Alexander Fleming, 101, 13083-881 Campinas, SP, Brazil.Tel: +55 19 35219304; fax: +55 19 35219304; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.