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Pregnant Women Need to Be More Active, Study Reports

Update Date: Aug 20, 2013 02:33 PM EDT
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Even though pregnant women are often told to rest since carrying a baby can take a toll on their backs and legs. However, doctors and experts have recommended that pregnant women maintain a healthy weight by performing light exercises that are safe. Despite the fact that a lot of pregnant women do stay active via treadmill or elliptical, a new study found that pregnant women are still too inactive. The study is reporting that pregnant women would benefit if they were slightly more active throughout the day as opposed to spending only half an hour exercising.

"We were able to show that pregnant women spend 75 percent of the time they are awake in sedentary behaviors," said Christina Campbell, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State reported by Medical Xpress. "Many of these women met physical activity guidelines. But just because you meet the guidelines, doesn't necessarily mean you're a non-sedentary person."

For this study, Campbell, the head of the Blossom Project at Iowa State University teamed up with a professor of kinesiology, Greg Welt. Together, they gave pregnant women two bands that helped monitor their activity levels over 24-hours. One band was placed on the arm and kept track of the amount of calories the women lost. The other band was wrapped around one leg and told the researchers whether the individual was standing, sitting or walking. The participants were monitored for one week during their second and third trimesters.

From this information, Campbell and her research team devised a standard of measurement called the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) value. The higher the value, the more active the woman was. The researchers found that women who stayed active throughout their day, whether it was walking around the house or running small errands had higher MET values than women who exercised for half an hour.

"The woman who never went to the gym, but was active all day long - she may be a waitress or have young kids at home and is always on the go - has more total daily MET-minutes, regardless of how she got there," Campbell said.

This finding is very important for doctors and pregnant women, especially when they are discussing weight gain. Although weight gain during pregnancy is normal and inevitable, too much weight gain can lead to negative health effects for both mother and child. For the infants of mothers who gain an excessive amount of weight, they are at a greater risk of childhood obesity. For the pregnant women, weight gain could lead to an increased risk of maternal complications, which include hypertension, preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure during the later trimesters and post partum obesity. Not only could exercise prevent these complications, being active also helps lower back pain, prevent insomnia and increase energy levels.

"Maybe it means that you make a conscious effort, if you have a desk job, to get up every hour and make a loop around your building for five minutes. Or maybe you walk to work or make an effort to park farther away or take the stairs. Really just those simple little things that we've been saying all along, but instead we find so many ways to cut corners on being active," Campbell said.

The study was provided by Iowa State University

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