Pregnant women, lace up your sneakers: A study has found that most expectant mothers are not getting nearly the amount of exercise they need.
Only one in six pregnant women meets the recommended guidelines for physical activity, which is 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise done most days of the week. (Only one out of four non-pregnant women meets the guidelines.)
The findings were based on a national survey of 144,000 non-pregnant women and 6,500 pregnant women conducted between 1994 and 2000. The survey also revealed a steady decline in exercise rates in pregnant women over the years. Twenty percent met the guidelines in 1994, and only 16% in 2000.
"It's going in the wrong direction," says Terry Leet, associate professor of community health at Saint Louis University School of Public Health and lead author of the study, published last month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
"We're living in a society where we're all supposed to be concerned about health, and we know that physical activity is one way to improve health," Leet says. "But the message isn't getting out there that women should be doing something."
Leet says various factors may contribute to the exercise decline. Although exercise is beneficial for women with normal pregnancies, not all obstetricians promote it. Busy moms-to-be think they don't have time to exercise. The decline may also be part of a national trend away from physical activity.
"This is a reality check," says Leet. "The next step is how to get the information out to change practices among doctors and to get women to ask questions, hear the information and make healthier choices."