Even Strenuous Exercise During Pregnancy Is Safe: Health Benefits For Baby And Mother-To-Be

Spending plenty of time at the gym during pregnancy isn’t particularly harmful for you or your child, experts commissioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have concluded — and it’ll likely do both of you a world of good.

The IOC’s group of experts reviewed the available evidence on exercise and its effect on maternal and fetal health. They found that exercise, even if strenuous or involving weight-lifting, has few to any harms. Exercise had no negative impact on the risk of premature delivery nor induced labor, and may possibly reduce it; lifting didn’t increase the risk of miscarriage; and exercise reduced the risk of excess birth weight without increasing the child’s chances of being underweight.

The findings were published Wednesday in The BMJ as the second part of a 5-part series on exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes. They were also initially presented last September at a three day meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland held by the IOC.

“Overall, it appears that in the general population, regular light-to-moderate physical activity does not increase the risk of miscarriage and may decrease the risk of miscarriage,” the researchers concluded.

Running Exercise is good for both expectant mom and baby, experts from the International Olympic Committee have concluded. Pixabay, Public Domain

They did note the relative lack of high-quality evidence specifically looking at elite athletes, though, and there were some other concerns they flagged.

In particular, they found low to moderate evidence that intense exercise in the first few weeks of pregnancy could slightly raise the risk of early miscarriage. In light of this, the committee recommended that elite athletes might want to cut back on their regimen in the week following ovulation, and similarly step back from repetitive weight training in the first three months of pregnancy.    

Elsewhere, research has shown that exercise during pregnancy may possibly help improve a newborn’s later brain development and even cardiovascular health.

Source: Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al. Exercise And Pregnancy In Recreational And Elite Athletes: 2016 Evidence Summary From The IOC Expert Group Meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the Effect Of Exercise On The Fetus, Labour And Birth. The BMJ. 2016.

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