Physical activity and pregnancy outcomes: an expert review

Published:September 25, 2022DOI:
      This expert review aimed to assess current literature on the effect and tracking of physical activity during pregnancy and associated outcomes. Self-reported physical activity may be inaccurate given the subjective nature of the questionnaires. The accelerometer ActiGraph is considered the “gold standard” to objectively measure physical activity. However, other more user-friendly wearable devices are now widely available and may accurately track physical activity. Conclusive data from both validated activity questionnaires and accelerometers indicate that physical activity is safe during pregnancy. In addition, studies of physical activity during pregnancy that evaluate pregnancy outcomes have found reduced risks of preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes mellitus and improved mental health among individuals who regularly engage in physical activity. In the United States, approximately 48% of pregnant individuals gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy; excessive gestational weight gain is associated with an increased risk of maternal and fetal complications, including preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes mellitus, and corresponding higher adverse short- and long-term maternal and offspring health outcomes. Although physical activity is safe during pregnancy and may reduce excessive gestational weight gain and resultant pregnancy complications, further research is needed to determine the frequency and duration of specific types of physical activity during pregnancy. Providers should encourage physical activity before and during pregnancy and educate patients regarding the benefits and safety of physical activity.

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