Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Is Exercise Medicine for Pregnant Women?

The American College of Sports Medicine Seems to think so

Canada's leading researcher on exercise during pregnancy recently joined forces with two American researchers to publish, "Integrating Exercise is Medicine® into the Care of Pregnant Women" in the July/August 2013 issue of the American College of Sports Medicine Journal.  Dr. Mottola, from The University of Western Ontario, is a proponent of the many benefits of an active pregnancy.  

Integrating Exercise is Medicine ® is an American initiative that encourages adults to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity. This recommendation includes pregnant women.

There are many benefits to an active pregnancy.  This article highlights a few:
  • Women who enter pregnancy meeting the recommended levels of physical activity are more likely to continue exercise throughout pregnancy.
  • Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to resume exercise in the postpartum period.
  • Regular exercise during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
  • Lower rates of obesity and excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Improved long-term health of women.

The authors of this article argue that pregnancy is the ideal time to begin integrating exercise as medicine.   Why?

Unlike non-pregnant patients, pregnant women see their healthcare providers an average of 11 times over the course of an uncomplicated 40 week pregnancy.  This gives healthcare providers more time to assess levels of physical activity and counsel the patient on appropriate exercise choices.  It also gives healthcare providers the opportunity to follow up throughout a woman's pregnancy journey.

The journal describes two studies in Finland where exercise intervention was integrated into prenatal healthcare visits.  Both studies reported a significant increase in the frequency and duration of moderate-intensity exercise sessions among the pregnant women who received on-going exercise counseling.  In both studies the physicians reported finding it feasible to include exercise intervention as part of the prenatal healthcare visits.

In conclusion, the American College of Sports Medicine, along with the authors of the journal article, recommend training healthcare providers to effectively integrate exercise counseling into the prenatal healthcare model. They also encourage ongoing research in this area in order to find best practice and optional outcomes measures.  

You can read the full journal article here.

Did your doctor or midwife talk to you about exercise when you were pregnant?

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