Exercise Guidelines in Pregnancy
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In 2002, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published exercise guidelines for pregnancy, which suggested that in the absence of medical or obstetric complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women. However, these guidelines did not define ‘moderate intensity’ or the specific amount of weekly caloric expenditure from physical activity required. Recent research has determined that increasing physical activity energy expenditure to a minimum of 16 metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours per week, or preferably 28 MET hours per week, and increasing exercise intensity to ≥60% of heart rate reserve during pregnancy, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus and perhaps hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (i.e. gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia) compared with less vigorous exercise. To achieve the target expenditure of 28 MET hours per week, one could walk at 3.2km per hour for 11.2 hours per week (2.5 METs, light intensity), or preferably exercise on a stationary bicycle for 4.7 hours per week (~6–7 METs, vigorous intensity). The more vigorous the exercise, the less total time of exercise is required per week, resulting in ≥60% reduction in total exercise time compared with light intensity exercise. Light muscle strengthening performed over the second and third trimester of pregnancy has minimal effects on a newborn infant’s body size and overall health. On the basis of this and other information, updated recommendations for exercise in pregnancy are suggested.