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Diet, Exercise Linked to Better Birth Outcomes

Update Date: Oct 14, 2014 06:37 PM EDT

Dieting and exercising can improve pregnancy outcomes, a new study suggests.

The latest findings from the world's biggest study of its kind revealed that healthy eating and increased physical activity from walking during pregnancy is directly associated with a variety of benefits at birth.

"While it might have been expected that healthier eating and increased physical activity during pregnancy would be associated with differences in weight gain, our findings highlight that weight gain in pregnancy is not an ideal measure of pregnancy health," lead researcher Prof. Jodie Dodd, from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute and the Women's and Children's Hospital, said in a news release. "Importantly, however, these changes in diet and physical activity were directly associated with significant improvements in outcomes for babies."

"Women who received dietary and lifestyle advice increased the number of servings they consumed per day of fruits and vegetables, while reducing the percentage of energy in their diet derived from saturated fats," Dodd added.

"Women were also successful in increasing their physical activity, with about 15-20 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week," she explained.

Dodd and her team previously found a significant reduction in the number of babies born over four kilograms to women who were given diet and lifestyle advice during pregnancy.  New research reveals that diet and physical activity can also reduce the risk of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome and cut the time spent in hospital.

"Approximately 50% of women are overweight or obese during pregnancy. Until this study was conducted, there had been little evidence about the overall benefits of dietary and lifestyle interventions on this group of women," study co-author Dr. Rosalie Grivell of the University's Robinson Research Institute, said in a news release.

"Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies. We would, of course, recommend that these lifestyle changes be adopted as much as possible before women become pregnant," Grivell concluded.

 The findings are published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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