According to a new study, pregnant women who exercise during the first trimester of pregnancy may have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes. Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that a lower risk was associated with at least 38 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day during the first trimester.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It affects up to 10% of women who are pregnant in the U.S. each year and can pose serious health problems, including complications during pregnancy and delivery and an increased future risk for diabetes in both mother and child.
Lead researcher Samantha Ehrlich said, “We know that exercise is safe and beneficial for healthy pregnant women. These results show that exercise is helpful in avoiding gestational diabetes, though you might need to do a little bit more than currently recommended to enjoy that benefit.”
The study was based on women’s self-reported levels of exercise during their first trimester of pregnancy. Researchers concluded that that exercising at least 38 minutes per day lowered the risk of gestational diabetes by 2.1 cases per 100 women. It was also found that it lowered the risk of abnormal blood sugar by 4.8 cases per 100 women.
“We know that six to 10 women per 100 get gestational diabetes,” Ehrlich said. “If being more active could reduce that by two women per 100, that’s a clear benefit.”
A Longitudinal Study
The observational study published in the journal Diabetes Care analyzed the data from the Pregnancy Environment and Lifestyle Study (PETALS), a longitudinal study that included a physical activity questionnaire from 2,246 pregnant members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California. All participants in the study were ethnically and racially diverse and had a wide range of pre-pregnancy weight classifications.
Current exercise recommendations for pregnant women are 30 minutes, five days a week. The authors of the study suggest that the current recommendations may need to be rethought to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Adding an extra 8 minutes a day of exercise could make all the difference in the reducing risk.