Exercising While Pregnant: Good for Mom, Great for Baby

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm a strong advocate of exercise during pregnancy. I ran through most of my pregnancies, which helped keep my weight gain in the normal range, made labor and delivery much easier, and also helped me bounce back into shape more quickly after birth. I used to get some funny looks from neighbors as I ran, and eventually waddled down the street, but I didn't mind. Although the benefit to mothers is well-established, new research is showing that exercise can also benefit baby.

A new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, divided 84 pregnant women into two groups. One group began a home-based stationary cycling program (40 minutes, 5 times a week) at 20 weeks pregnant and continued until birth. The other group continued with their current level of activity.

Comparing the two groups, exercise did not have an effect on the mother's weight, but it did have an effect on the baby's weight. Mothers who didn't exercise had babies who were an average of 5 ounces heavier than those mothers who did exercise. This is important because previous research has found that babies who are larger at birth (higher than 8 pounds, 12 ounces) have a greater risk of childhood obesity.

This study demonstrates that your pregnancy can still benefit from regular moderate exercise, even if you don't start until halfway through. (Assuming you have doctor's approval.) It would be interesting study women who start exercising earlier in their pregnancy (before 20 weeks) compared to those who do not, and how that affects a baby's weight.

What do you think? If you've had children, did you exercise during pregnancy? What benefits did you notice for you and/or your baby?

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CD26365287 3/4/2021
Great article. I'm out of shape at 21 weeks pregnant myself and this gives me the hope that I can start small to get myself out there walking/waddling. Something is better than nothing. Report
Thanks! Report
thanks for sharing Report
great article Report
I wonder how safe it is for a woman to exercise during pregnancy when the woman is already obese? Report
This is frustrating for me because I was told NOT to exercise with both of my pregnancies. I had pregnancy induced hypertension the first time, which was horrible because I felt fine but was not allowed to exercise. Luckily I was blessed with a perfectly healthy, yet somewhat small 5lb 15oz girl.

Then I found out I have a bleeding disorder during my second pregnancy and was told not to exercise. My son was born at 9lbs 3oz, and I almost died during childbirth. However, he is now a perfectly healthy 9 year old with no weight issues at all, and I'm finally back to my high school weight (after about 5 years).

I've always been an avid exerciser and was devastated that I couldn't exercise during either pregnancy. Articles like this just make me feel worse about it. :( Report
I've never been pregnant but my mom had 4 and my sisters had 2, my mom had 3 of 4 normal weight babies except for me. I was almost 5 pounds though. She didn't exercise during pregnancy and neither did my 2 sisters. One sister struggles with weight the other does not. I think if you are exercising before pregnancy its good to keep at it while you are pregnant unless the doctor advises against it~ Report
Does this study consider that some women just happen to grow big babies that are over 7 lbs at birth? In my family there are 6 children, all 9 lbs or over - none of them is obese. I must say, articles like this just drive me crazy. I have the feeling they just make women worried they could have too large babies which they can prevent by exercising. To exercise has health benefits whether you're pregnant or not. The cherry on the cake of annoyance is that I can't even go and read this study for myself, because of course I have to register and/or pay. This article puts out half-baked information that benefits nobody. Sorry Sparkpeople - thumbs down! Report
I am fat and old. I was fat and old when I had my kidlet. I lost four pregnancies before we had a successful one. We needed assistance from a fertility clinic to get pregnant successfully. I didn't do anything that I thought might risk the pregnancy. Because I hadn't been doing any formal exercise I didn't start anything. I had gestational diabetes but kept a pretty firm lid on it because my baby girl was 5 lbs 10 oz at birth. I breastfed until she was two because extended breastfeeding supposedly helps prevent diabetes and childhood obesity. At three, kidlet is tall and lean. Yea!

I think we all need to do what we feel is right for our own pregnancies but I think if you're higher risk you need to do what is right for you and not pay attention to what anyone else thinks or says, except your physician/obstetrician, of course. Don't be "guilted" into doing anything that isn't right for you and your pregnancy. For example, because of my advanced age and the gestational diabetes there was an increased likelihood of stillbirth. I was at the hospital probably five times in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy for stress tests because I couldn't feel the baby moving enough. Don't be afraid to do the same thing. Do what is right *for you*. If that means other pregnant moms run circles around you, let them. Report
I'm 30 weeks pregnant and overweight going into this pregnancy. I began to have pain in my legs numbness. I spoke to my doctor and they recommended I exercise walking, And I have to say I feel so much better I don't have the aching in my legs. And overall I feel energized and feel good. I get those crazy looks at the gym and I just keep on doing my thing. I have also lost 5 pounds and the doctor says that's ok. Remember I'm overweight so Im excited that when I do have the baby this was definetely the boost I needed.

EDD June 28, 2010 Report
I'm not pregnant yet, but I have all intentions to exercise through pregnancy!! Report
I wish I would have exercised alot more when I was pregnant with my daughter, I gained 65lbs!! My daughter was a good wieght 7.7lbs, but I was huge. Now I am having the hardest time losing those extra pounds! Report
I walked a lot (a couple of miles a day) when I was pregnant (eons ago)... and my daughter was 3 weeks early and was just over 6 1/2 #'s... and very healthy all through her childhood! I didn't gain too much - 25#... but I was back in my jeans within 2 weeks - okay, I had to lay on the bed to zip 'em...but within 4 weeks, I could zip 'em standing straight up :) ...but I walked everyday with my daughter - first in a front carrier, then a stroller... even had 4 abdominal surgeries in later years... and never lost the amount of stomach muscle mass the docs said I would... I believe it was all b/c I consistently walked all my life...never had a weight problem until I stopped walking.... hmmmmmm....correlation? I think so. Report
I don't recall my exercise regimen when I was pregnant with my daughter. My two sons... hmm... maybe nada. I would walk here and there but not excessively. I did start training a few weeks ago; about the same time I discovered I was pregnant AGAIN! At first, I backed off and thought why can't I train? I'm just walking! But now that I am on bed rest for threatened miscarriage... all I can think of is when can I get back on the treadmill or my bike?! Report
I exercised a ton when I was pregnant - even did a mile on the elliptical the morning of the day my water broke! Baby was 6 lbs, 12 oz (2 weeks early), and I gained over 60 lbs -not for a lack of exercising! Since it was my first, I don't know how it would have helped with my labor/delivery, but weight has come off pretty quickly - my son is just over 5 months, and I am about 8-10 lbs from my prepreg weight.

At any rate, any exercise you can do when pregnant should only help - baby AND momma! Report
Well it was sort of forced on me. I had gestational diabetes. I walked everyday. At that time I was sort of new to exercise and all the other stuff I had to go thur. It really helped with labor and delivery. Helped with stress too. I walked into the last two weeks of my nineth month of pregnancy. I started experience cramping and pain. I missed walking but I knew it was best to listen to my mid wives. I had complications but it was due to my general health. Me and baby were fine after did medical stuff for me. I wish I had listened to there warning about diabetes coming back on me later. Oh well sometimes you learn the hard way. Humm I just saw Zorbs13 comment. My baby was small but thank God we made it. Report
I walked almost daily during each of my pregnancies. I gained 18 pounds with the first and 20 pounds with the second. My first son was 5#15 (born on his due date), and his younger brother was 6#3 (induced at 4 days overdue). Report
I didn't exercise with any of my 3 pregnancies as I was ill throughout my entire pregnancies and tired. I did try to maintain my running with my 3rd until I started bleeding. Instead, I placed myself on a healthier diet with my third; gained only 25 lbs, versus 50lbs with the previous 2. Instead of being lighter, my third had the largest birth weight and born 2 weeks earlier. I blame this to being nearly gestationally diabetic (I didn't outright fail my tests, but close enough). Each subsequent child had a higher birth weight.

I am a proponent of exercising in general. It makes me feel energized and more able to handle the aches and pains of daily living, pregnant or otherwise. But this article never mentioned anything about health and nutritional habits of the two groups, genetic propensity that might cause them to have larger babies, i.e. gestational diabetes, or how the group had been split, random or carefully balanced to try to isolate out the effects of these other variable that might otherwise skew their findings. For a random group, I would think a larger population than 41 women is required to average out these other effects with reliable and consistent finding. How was the data processed? Were random high fliers thrown out of the results? After all, they were comparing AVERAGE birth weight. To many unknowns for me to accept this declaration with any degree of confidence. Report
I worked during my first pregnancy and I had to walk all over the place. It was the stairs to get to the computer room because the elavator's didn't work, and even after they were fixed it was still faster to take the stairs. The company was spread out over a very large industrial area so they had a company bus that ran every 30 mins. Only problem it was faster to walk to the closet other building near the one I worked in than wait for that bus. It was almost a mile one way to that building and I did 4 or 5 times a day round trip. I was back in a size 6 when I returned to work 6 weeks after the birth of my daughter.
With the second child I didn't work because I was diagnoised with Lupus, gained lots of weight because of medication, but still I walked a lot. I played with my daughter on the swings and slides at the playground everyday with her but it wasn't enough to keep the weight from creeping up on me. Took me 18 months to lose the weight from the second pregnancy. I think exercise is very important for women who are pregnant. Report
I was always a walker and walked up until about my 6th month. I had pinched a nerve really bad and my upper right thigh had gone numb. Also because my daughter had found a comfy spot and every time I walked it really hurt. I only gained 13.5 lb, (yes that is correct) and when my daughter was born I actually lost weight. She weighed 9 lbs. Looking at her now she at at the perfect weight and you would never guess she was such a big baby.. Report
I'd like to know what the exercising birthweight was vs the non exercising birthweight. Sure, very high birthweights may be corrolated with high childhood obesity, but low birthweights go beyond corrolation and have been linked to many different health problems. Were the lower birthweight babies still in the normal range? Report
I worked out consistently throughout my first pregnancy, walking and using the elliptical. My son weighed in at 9 lbs 11 oz, so I don't think exercising affected his weight. I was not a consistent with my second pregnancy, but I did walk (mostly chasing a 2 year old!) and use the elliptical. My daughter weighed 8 lbs 8 oz. Both children were born within a couple days of their due date. I don't think I ate as healthy with my second, and I started out that pregnancy with a few extra pounds. Interesting findings. Report
My best friend did kickboxing through her whole pregnancy and she says she never felt better. She's due any day now so I'll to see how much her baby weighs :) Report
If for no other reason, the way I feel when I workout sure seems like a good indication that I should continue exercising while pregnant - adapting the activity if necessary. Report
I swam a lot during my only pregnancy and I could feel my son swimming right along with me! After his birth the weight just fell off, and I was stronger and healthier than before the pregnancy! Report
I exercised during both of my pregnancies, and I gained 80lbs with my daugther and 75lbs with my son...I can't imagine what would have happened if I wasn't exercising!! I did have to be careful though because I had some major complications with both pregnancies...but I birthed 2 very healthy, happy babies!

I had no idea that bigger babies had a higher risk of childhood obesity. Both of my kids are healthy as can be, but my son was 9lbs 3oz! (my daughter was only 5lbs 13oz) So far they're both in great shape & little balls of energy, so hopefully it'll stay that way! :) Report
I was in shape before I got pregnant with my daughter and then I stopped. I wanted to work out but I was so sick and I could not keep any food down for the first few months. I had a hard pregnancy and I wish I would have started working out after I got over my morning sickness. I only gained 35 pounds but now I am having a hard time loosing the weight. I am working out now and plan to continue working out when I get pregnant again. I want to be in shape and not feel so tired all the time. I hope that my next pregnancy is better than my first. Report
I exercised during my pregnancy and felt much better for it. I was at the hospital only 4 hours before giving birth to my son. Labor was not so bad, I contribute it to staying very active while I was pregnant! Report
I had a baby 9 months ago and I exercised throughout my pregnancy. I felt great and I think it truly helped me avoid some of the discomforts associated with pregnancy. I would absolutely encourage expectant moms to exercise if their doctor says it's OK for them. In my case, my doctors all encouraged it. Report
When I was pregnant, I walked as much as possible and I went to Curves 4 - 5 days a week. I felt great and had a healthy baby girl. Report
I had 2 children a long time ago. I did a lot of walking while I was pregnant.
I feel sure that it helped me have an easier labor. Report
That is great! I will have to remember that when I become pregnant. Report
I am currently pregnant and have been exercising 4 days a week for the last 13 weeks (that is how far along I am). I plan on continuing until my midwife tells me to stop! Thanks for sharing this article! Report
I swam with my pregnancies, logging in a mile a couple times a week up to going into labor, had children 8lbs 13oz, 8lbs 2oz, and 9lbs 9oz, and not one of them has ever had any weight problems. Each is, and has been, lean their whole lives.

In their 20s and 30s now, they are active in their own right, but not one is interested in swimming... they are "sinkers", not "floaters". Report
Oh, boy, I didn't exercise. In fact, I ate McD's all the time and gained a whole crap ton of unhealthy weight... It wasn't until after I gave birth at 261 lbs (how the heck did I get that big! Oh, yeah... I used being pregnant as an excuse to shovel junk down my gullet like there would be no tomorrow!) that I knew I needed to make changes. So, I tried to start getting in shape right after his birth... If we ever decide to do take 2, you can bet your Fortune article that I will be exercising through my pregnancy. :) Report
This article scares me a little bit...if I exercise, will my babies be too small???? 5 ounces lighter and I might not have survived (being a premie at 4lbs 5oz. as it was)...were all of the deliveries in this study at normal-term? Report
I worked out until after my due date with my first child and up to the day I went in with my second...I am so happy I did it. I had a c-section with my second (very unwanted surgery) but was back at the gym when both children were just 10 days old Report
I gained between 30-35 pounds with both pregnancies (and am almost at wk 34 of pregnancy #3 and have gained just shy of 30 pounds so far). Preg #1 I didn't exercise, baby weighed 7.7. Preg#2 I exercised pretty regularly--walking several times a week, and the baby weighed 8.6. This time I have exercised here and there--more than #1 but much less than #2...

There are MANY benefits for exercise, though: a smoother birth, a baby that gets more oxygen to the brain tends to be smarter, etc. So I do feel very guilty for not exercising more this time. Report
I know of a friend who worked out until the week she delivered! The doctor told her if she's been working out, there's no need to stop as it helps with the delivery, keeps her in shape and the weight controlled. It's easier to get back into the swing of exercising after the baby is born. Wow, how times have changed! Report
I believe that women should exercise when pregnant. I tried to with my son but my mom caught me on the treadmill and said the dumbest thing I ever heard and I believed her because she is an RN. I won't repeat what she said because some people know her on here and I would hate for them to think otherwise but I guess with her being West Indian and growing up with those old wives tales she still believed some of them. Long story short my appetite didn't change since I was active with a high metabolism. for me that equated to constant hunger which didn't matter because I exercised but not being able to do so I gained 80 lbs during my pregnancy. Report
I was young when I had my first (almost 10 years ago...sniff sniff)...but did NOT exercise and gained 36 lbs. Fast forward 6 years and I had my son, exercised whole pregnancy and gained 18 lbs. With both, I had c-sections. However, being 6 years older, I did not think I'd recover so quick, but according to my doctor, the exercise during pregnancy helped my abs to recover quicker from the c-section and within a week, I was back to my normal exercises per my DR's approval! It's a good idea all around...but as for the affect on my kids weight? My daughter was 7 lbs, 2 oz and my son was 6 lbs, 9.25 oz...so not a huge difference on them...more of a big difference on momma! :) Report
I taught aerobics classes through all three of my pregnancies. I think the biggest benefit was being able to get back into shape quickly after delivering. Report
I have five children and I went to the pool a lot when I was pregnant with my first one. By the time I was pregnant with the fifth one I was "running" THEM everywhere and playing outside with them, so I didn't think about "exercise" as exercise because I had to much to do helping them with soccer, etc. LOL
Just think about our ancestor mothers and how they worked in the fields, etc. and never mentioned they were even pregnant, since people didn't talk about that years ago. We are so lucky. Report
I took water aerobics throughout my pregnancy. It was great, the water kept me from overheating - a problem I had while pregnant and it was energizing. I went after work at least 3 times a week. I had what is called a "precipitious" labor, I went into labor and had my son about a half hour after being admitted to the hospital. It was the easiest pregnancy I had, out of 4. Report
i didn't work out at all for my son's but it was a complicated pregnancy i wish i would of though Report
unfortunately i wasn't able to exercise while i was pregnant because i was on bedrest from 3 months to when they were born but this definitely makes sense! Report
Hmmm. I had two boys. I exercised (walking) with the first one, but no regular exercise with the second one. Both births had challenges and both boys came out at 6 pounds exactly and were only 1/4" different in length. So I am not sure what that tells me in relationship to this article. Report
I found my deliveries were easier when I exercised on a regular basis. Report
I love the idea of working out while pregnant. LOVE IT. Report
I am 5 days away from my due date with my third. The first two I didn't workout and gained a lot of weight 1st(60lbs) 2nd(45lbs) but I lost the baby weight in between the kids. This time around I am only up 10lbs but what I have noticed is how much the weight contributed to heartburn and other side effects of pregnancy. Been so much better the entire pregnancy. Report