Staying Fit Before Pregnancy Could Reduce Gestational Diabetes Risk

Staying Fit Before Pregnancy Could Reduce Gestational Diabetes Risk

A new study provides an additional incentive for women to get fit before trying for a baby. Researchers discovered women who were fitter before they became pregnant were at lower risk of developing gestational diabetes.

These findings show the importance of improving fitness levels before trying for a baby, especially as gestational diabetes is estimated to affect approximately 14% of women in the United States. Women who develop gestational diabetes are more at risk of going on to have Type II diabetes after having their baby.

During this latest study, researchers analyzed data collected over a 25-year period from 1333 women, and who completed seven study visits after initially being enrolled in the program, reporting whether they became pregnant and had a baby, or whether they developed gestation or diabetes. At the first visit, researchers carried out a fitness examination, assessing how well the women could walk on a treadmill for two-minute intervals at increasing speeds and increasing inclines. During the study, 164 women developed diabetes during pregnancy, and by assessing the data, researchers were able to determine that women who had high levels of fitness before becoming pregnant had a more than 20% lower risk of developing gestational diabetes compared to those with lower levels of fitness. The results came as no surprise to the researchers who expected to see this level of reduction amongst women with moderate fitness to good fitness, but it does highlight the need to get in shape before you become pregnant.

Now, it’s hoped these findings may be used by medical professionals to recommend a higher level of pre-pregnancy fitness to women, and especially for those at a higher risk of developing diabetes while pregnant. A decent level of activity is considered to include at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise each week, which is only half an hour each day for five days a week. A brisk walk is considered a moderate activity, while jogging is deemed to be a vigorous activity.

Exercising before and during Pregnancy

Trying to become more active before having a baby can help to improve glucose metabolism, preventing an excessive weight gain during pregnancy. While pregnant, continuing with a regular exercise routine can help you to maintain good health, relieving some of the common discomforts that include fatigue and backache. It’s also thought that being more active can help to alleviate stress while building stamina that will be needed during labor.

If you were reasonably fit before you became pregnant, then you should still be able to continue a moderate level of activity, but don’t try to exercise at too high a level. Instead, aim for a level that feels comfortable for you, and follow your obstetrician’s advice.

Even if you haven’t exercised before, you can still safely begin exercising during pregnancy, but it’s especially important to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime. Don’t try to do anything too strenuous as a daily walk may be all that’s needed. Generally, 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week should be perfectly safe during pregnancy.

When Not to Exercise during Pregnancy

No matter how much you want to stay fit during pregnancy, you shouldn’t exercise if you have medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma. Exercise may also be inadvisable if you are at risk of developing any potential problems during your pregnancy, which is why it’s so important to consult with your doctor before exercising. If you feel pelvic pain or any other discomfort stop exercise and contact your gynecologist. They can advise you as to which activities are safe based on your medical history.

What Are the Safest Activities?

Generally, most exercises are safe during pregnancy provided you don’t overdo things. The safest activities include swimming and brisk walking, and low impact aerobics. Using an elliptical machine or a stationary bicycle should also be safe. Racquet sports such as tennis can be okay, but you may find your balance is affected when you try to move to rapidly. It can be better to stick to exercises that don’t require too much balance or coordination, especially as your pregnancy progresses.

Exercises That Are Best Avoided

Any activities where you are at risk of taking a fall or contact sports are best avoided. It’s also better to avoid any exercises that could jar your baby, and which involves making rapid changes in direction. Much of it is down to common sense but always check with your doctor just to be safe.

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