Exercise in Pregnancy: A Clinical Review

Sports Health. 2015 Nov-Dec;7(6):527-31. doi: 10.1177/1941738115599358. Epub 2015 Aug 4.


Context: Health professionals who care for pregnant women should discuss potential health benefits and harms of exercise. Although most pregnant women do not meet minimal exercise recommendations, there are a growing number of physically active women who wish to continue training throughout pregnancy.

Evidence acquisition: A search of the Web of Science database of articles and reviews available in English through 2014. The search terms exercise pregnancy, strenuous exercise pregnancy, and vigorous exercise pregnancy were used.

Study design: Clinical review.

Level of evidence: Level 3.

Results: With proper attention to risk stratification and surveillance, exercise is safe for the mother and fetus. Benefits of exercise in pregnancy include reduction in Cesarean section rates, appropriate maternal and fetal weight gain, and managing gestational diabetes. Exercise as a means of preventing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or perinatal depression cannot be reliably supported. Overall, the current evidence suffers from a lack of rigorous study design and compliance with physical activity interventions.

Conclusion: Research thus far has been unable to consistently demonstrate proposed benefits of exercise in pregnancy, such as preventing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or perinatal depression. However, moderate- and high-intensity exercise in normal pregnancies is safe for the developing fetus and clearly has several important benefits. Thus, exercise should be encouraged according to the woman's preconception physical activity level.

Keywords: exercise; pregnancy; review; strenuous.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / prevention & control
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy*
  • Weight Gain