Two new studies offer additional incentive for expectant mothers to exercise—even at low intensity.
In the first study, researchers in Spain worked with 510 sedentary pregnant women to evaluate the effect of aerobic exercise and resistance training on baby weight. A birth weight of more than eight pounds, 13 ounces can increase the chance that a mother will need a cesarean delivery.
The women were divided into two groups. One group completed 55 minutes of exercise three times a week in their second and third trimesters, while the other group remained sedentary. After scientists crunched the numbers, they discovered that exercise lowered the chance of large newborns by 58 percent and the need for cesarean sections by 34 percent.
In the second study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Health, researchers found that light exercise during the second trimester could limit chances of gestational diabetes, preterm birth and preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnant women) by lowering the levels of C-reactive protein in women’s blood.
Although the study also identified a connection between lower levels of CRP and exercise in the first and third trimester, the findings were statistically insignificant. The study author Marquis Hawkins told Runner’s world that the disparity could be due to the small sample size (294 women) and the challenge of accurately measuring activity levels. Still, he added, the unique thing about this study was that it showed that women did not need to do high intensity exercise to see health benefits.