Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review

This review attempts 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. Exercises during pregnancy are related to 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 relationship between 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 are still based on the current guidelines on moderate-intensity, low-impact, aerobic exercise at least three times per 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.

Physical exercise is beneficial for women during pregnancy as well as 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.

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