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How Does Exercise Help Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is usually diagnosed between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. Greater weight gain during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of GDM, as is leading a sedentary lifestyle. It is normal to be less active when pregnant as natural hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can affect energy levels, muscle strength and mood.  As pregnancy advances, the weight and pressure of the growing uterus and developing baby can also restrict the exercises that a woman feels comfortable doing.

However, there is evidence suggesting that undertaking moderate exercise such as walking, yoga or swimming can be beneficial; and that doing so early in pregnancy, can protect against the later development of GDM. GDM can be dangerous for both the mother-to-be and her unborn child, therefore, it is very important to implement preventative measures from early on in a female’s pregnancy. Furthermore, women with GDM are at increased risk of developing T2DM and, thus, longer term lifestyle adjustments should be considered after the gestation period.

Doctors recommend that pregnant females partake in 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Clearly, not all exercises are appropriate; contact sports and those with a risk of falling should be avoided. However, recreational physical activity is strongly recommended. Aerobic and resistance training can both be performed safely during pregnancy, but participants should avoid prolonged periods of high temperatures, or excessive fluid loss through sweating.

Read more about how exercise can help to manage different types of diabetes.

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