A new Danish study showed that obese women who exercised during pregnancy gained less weight than those who didn’t. No news flash here but it remains that spicing up your nine-month journey with some physical activity can make it easier for you to keep your weight in check and hence, help keep complications like gestational diabetes at bay. Plus women who exercise often have easier and shorter labour!

Study details

425 obese pregnant women (BMI of at least 30kg/m2) were involved in the study. The women were randomly assigned to 1 of the 3 following groups:

  • Group 1: The physical activity and dietary intervention group.
    The women were encouraged to increase their daily step count to 11,000 which they monitored using a pedometer. They also met a dietitian every fortnight – she advised them to adhere to a low fat, Mediterranean diet of about 1,200 to 1,675kcal per day.
  • Group 2: The physical activity intervention group.
  • Group 3: The control group.
    These women received standard care.

The researchers used the 2009 Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations on gestational weight gain (5 to 9 kg) as reference.

Study findings

26% of the women in group 1 gained less than 5kg compared to 22% and 17% in groups 2 and 3 respectively – this wasn’t statistically significant though. However, when combining results from the intervention groups and comparing these to gestational weight gain in the control group, the scientists observed that physical activity decreased weight gain by about 1.38kg.

Is exercise enough if you’re trying to limit your weight gain?

Including an exercise routine in your daily schedule will definitely have a positive impact on your weight but improving your diet in parallel will boost the effect. The scientists found that women who exercised and improved their dietary habits found it easier to adhere to the IOM’s guidelines and gain less weight – 55% of group 1 gained less than 9kg compared to 49% in group 2 and only 37% in the control group.

Need some extra motivation?

  • Aerobic exercise can make you more fun to be around as it can help treat mild to moderate depression.
  • Being physically active with a bump will make it easier for you to shed weight once your bundle of joy is here.
  • Exercising will make you feel less like a zombie.
  • Maintaining a healthy gestational weight can protect your baby from premature death and make her less vulnerable to obesity.
  • By controlling your pregnancy weight gain, you’ll also reduce your risks of pre-eclampsia and you’ll be less likely to miscarry or give birth to a premature baby.

What kind of exercise can you do while pregnant?

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Brisk walking (or slow walking if you’re not in great shape)
  • Indoor cycling
  • Kegel exercises

Note: Pregnancy is not the time to think about getting ripped so forget the heavy weights and go for lighter ones instead.

Need some extra info? Check out the NHS’ tips for exercise in pregnancy.

A word of caution

If your most strenuous exercise in recent years was window shopping, get your GPs approval before starting any exercise routine. And keep yourself well hydrated at all times!


    Clapp JF 3d (1990) The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 163(6 Pt 1):1799-805.

    Dunn et al (2005) Exercise treatment for depression: Efficacy and dose response. Am J Prev Med. 28(1):1-8.

    Renault et al (2013) The TOP (Treatment of Obese Pregnant Women) Study: A randomized controlled trial of the effect of physical activity intervention assessed by pedometer with or without dietary intervention in obese pregnant women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2013.09.029.