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Stanford Medicine

Health and Fitness, Pregnancy, Women's Health

Are women getting the message about the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Previous studies have shown that when a mom-to-be exercises it can strengthen her baby’s heart and boost the overall health of mother and child. But despite such evidence on how working out benefits both mom and baby, new research suggests a significant number of women still worry that their exercise  may harm their unborn children and may be reducing their physical activity as a result.

In the small study, researchers surveyed women who were 16 to 30 weeks pregnant about their fitness habits before and after pregnancy. Their findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held this week in San Diego. WebMD reports:

Before becoming pregnant, almost half of the women said they exercised moderately at least 90 minutes a week.

After becoming pregnant, less than 27% did. “They said they were afraid they were going to hurt the baby,” [researcher Melissa J. Hague, MD, ] says.

Safety concerns were more of an issue with those who weren’t active, Hague found.

  • About 62% of those who exercised during pregnancy thought working out longer than 30 minutes is safe.
  • Only 18% of those who did not exercise thought so.

Hague found ethnic differences in attitudes toward exercise during pregnancy:

  • Nearly 89% of white women said brisk walking is safe during pregnancy, and 90% said swimming is safe.
  • Only 60% of other ethnic groups thought brisk walking is safe, and only 67% thought swimming is.

Hague and her team noted that family or cultural beliefs about exercising during pregnancy might be influencing women’s decisions.

Previously: A girl’s best friend: How owning a dog helps moms-to-be stay physically active, How safe is rigorous exercise during pregnancy?, Could exercise before and during early pregnancy lower risk of pre-eclampsia? and Pregnant and on the move: The importance of exercise for moms-to-be
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