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Although exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the same cannot be said about gestational diabetes. The risk of developing it remains unaltered in women who take up exercising in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Exercise in 2nd Trimester of Pregnancy unlikely to reduce the Risk of developing Gestational Diabetes

According to latest statistics available, on an average around 14% of all pregnant women develop diabetes during pregnancy, a condition better known as gestational diabetes. The condition usually develops between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy due to an increased resistance to insulin in the body of a pregnant woman. Gestational diabetes is usually limited to the period of pregnancy and disappears soon after. However, it may lead to certain complications during pregnancy, like large for date baby, necessitating a caesarean section. Moreover, women with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes during later stage of their lives.

Exercise seems to play an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes in the general population. However, there have been hardly any studies carried out to study the impact of exercise on the development of gestational diabetes. Therefore, a study was undertaken under the leadership of Signe N. Stafne, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, to find out the efficacy of an exercise program in pregnant women. The researchers tried to find out whether such a program helped in lowering the risk of development of gestational diabetes and improving insulin resistance. The results of the study, which have been published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, conclude that exercise in 2nd trimester of pregnancy is unlikely to reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

It is difficult to motivate Pregnant Women to stick to their Exercise Program

For their study, the researchers enrolled 855 pregnant women who were 18 to 22 weeks pregnant. The women were randomly divided into two groups. While one group was advised to continue with their standard antenatal care, the second group was assigned an exercise program along with the routine antenatal care.

The second group was subjected to an hour long workout once a week for 12 weeks in which the participants were made to do low impact aerobics apart from some stretching and strengthening exercises. The women were also asked to exercise at their homes twice a week.

At the end of the study it was seen that the incidence of gestational diabetes was almost the same in both the groups. While it was 6% in the control group, the group which underwent the exercise program had an incidence of gestational diabetes of 7%. This came as a surprise to the researchers. But further analysis of the results revealed that only 55% of the women from the second group had followed their exercise program regularly. The researchers have opined that it is difficult to motivate pregnant women to stick to their exercise program, almost as difficult as it is to motivate the general population to stick to their exercise programs.

Another view that has emerged from the study is that any exercise program aimed at reducing gestational diabetes should be started before a woman gets pregnant or during the first trimester of the pregnancy itself. This is because important metabolic changes take place inside a woman’s body during the course of first trimester of pregnancy. Another important point to be considered is that almost all the participants in this study were of the normal weight category. The impact of exercise program on pregnant women who are obese or overweight is yet to be studied.

The study, does not in any manner, discourage pregnant women from exercising. Exercise during pregnancy has its own benefits. It is just that it has not been found to be effective in reducing the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

  • “Regular Exercise During Pregnancy to Prevent Gestational Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, by Stafne N., et al. Published in the January 2011issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, accessed on February 24, 2011. Retrieved from:
  • “Exercise Doesn't Lower Risk Of Pregnancy-Related Diabetes”, by Amy Norton. Published in the December 28, 2011 issue of Reuters Health, accessed on February 24, 2011. Retrieved from
  • Photo courtesy of tuscanss on Flickr: