Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is not meant to replace the advice and recommendations of your doctor and/or midwife. Please consult your caregiver before beginning any exercise program.

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Most every study relating to pregnancy and exercise concludes that exercise is not only safe during pregnancy, but that it is actually better for both the mother and baby to engage in physical activity throughout pregnancy. (Sarah Kooperman with Susan Brokenbrough)

James F. Clapp II is a professor of reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr Clapp is one of the most noteworthy researchers on the topic of pregnancy and exercise. In a 1990 study he concludes "Moderate exercise during pregnancy leads to better weight regulation and fewer backaches and other discomforts."

In the same study, Dr. Clapp documented "shorter, easier labors (on average 2 hours less of labor time) with less medical intervention (24%less C-sections and 14% less usage of forceps), higher neo-natal Apgar scores and quicker recoveries" for exercising pregnant women.

In a subsequent article which appeared in the Journal of Pediatrics, December 1996, Dr. Clapp traced the development of children of exercising mothers. Clapp set out to test the hypothisis that regular exercise throughout pregnancy had an adverse effect on the children by the time they reached five years of age. The offspring of exercising mothers measured about 10% less in skinfold and weight measures than those of the non-exercising mothers. Lean muscle mass was higher, particularly in the boys, and percentage of fat was lower. According to national statistics, the children at five years of age of the exercising mothers measured in the 50th percentile for age and skinfold thickness. As Clapp noted, "... it is not that the offspring of exercising women are unduly lean at age 5 years, rather that the offspring of the control subjects are a bit on the fat side" (Clapp, 861). Clapp's study also suggests that women who exercised during pregnancy experience an average of 21% less weight gain than women who are sedentary (858).

Postpartum Aerobic Exercise for Breast Feeding Mothers.Researchers studied 33 sedentary women who breast fed their babies. They participated in aerobic exercise 45 minutes daily, 5 days a week for 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that aerobic exercise performed 4 or 5 times per week beginning 6-8 weeks postpartum had no adverse effect on lactation and significantly improved the mother's cardiovascular fitness (ALCA News, Vol 6:2).

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