Why do pregnant women stop exercising in the third trimester?

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2009;88(11):1267-75. doi: 10.3109/00016340903284901.


Current exercise guidelines recommend pregnant women to exercise throughout pregnancy. However, a high percentage of pregnant women are sedentary, and there is an increasing decline of physical activity and exercise, especially in the third trimester.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to compare demographic and health-related factors in pregnant women exercising and not exercising in the third trimester.

Design: Cross-sectional design comparing exercisers and non-exercisers.

Setting: Rikshospitalet University Hospital and Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.

Population: Healthy pregnant women (n = 467) were successively allocated from the application form for birth at Rikshospitalet University Hospital.

Methods: A questionnaire, including questions about demographic variables, physical activity level, common pregnancy complaints, social modeling, attitudes and barriers towards exercise participation was answered between gestation-week 32 and 36.

Main outcome measures: Demographic variables, pregnancy related health factors and social modeling, including exercise counseling by health care providers, were tested using binary logistic regression analysis.

Results: Less than 11% were defined as regular exercisers in the third trimester. Having high gestational weight gain and no social role models with respect to exercise behavior during childhood were inversely associated with third trimester exercise. Pre-pregnancy exercise was the strongest predictor of regular exercise at late gestation. Not receiving advice about exercise from health professionals was borderline significant. Pelvic girdle pain and sick-leave were not statistically significant factors.

Conclusions: Pre-pregnancy exercise was strongly related to exercise at late gestation. This study indicates a need for more information and motivation for moderate exercise before and throughout pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / physiology
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires