Review of general suggestions on physical activity to prevent and treat gestational and pre-existing diabetes during pregnancy and in postpartum

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Feb;29(2):115-126. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2018.10.013. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


The aim of this review is to provide general suggestions on physical activity (PA) in pre-gestational and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and encourage women to take part in safe and effective activities throughout pregnancy, in the absence of other contraindications. PA before and during pregnancy and in postpartum has many positive effects on the mother, as it could reduce the risk of GDM, excessive weight gain and lower back pain and also prevents, in the postpartum, diabetes mellitus. It may also reduce the duration of labour and complications at childbirth, fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression, thereby leading to an improved sense of wellbeing. Clinically, it is thought to help prevent preeclampsia and premature birth even though RCTs provide conflicting evidence with regard to the prevention of GDM. The main reason for this rests on the fact that the majority of clinical trials have not been able to replicate the preventive effect of PA on the onset of GDM, such as the different adherence of the patient to PA. Herein, we survey the literature regarding exercise and PA on GDM prevention and treatment as well as on clinical outcomes in pre-GDM in pregnancy. On the basis of the current literature, we also present a series of general recommendations and suggestions on PA and exercise training in pregnancy among both diabetic patients and those at risk for GDM.

Keywords: Diabetes; Exercise training; Gestational diabetes; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diagnosis
  • Diabetes, Gestational / epidemiology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / physiopathology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / therapy*
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult