Mothers who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have healthier, more active babies, study finds

Staying fit while pregnant can help your child to be more adept with movement and possibly be more active later in life

Pregnant woman stretches while exercising outdoors
(Image credit: Getty)

Staying fit helps us through all stages of life, including during pregnancy. Not only can exercise boost your physical and mental health while pregnant, but it can also have a really positive impact on your baby's health.

Naturally, the intensity at which you normally exercise will be lower during pregnancy, but there is no reason for you to hang up your pair of best running shoes for women. As long as you consult your doctor or midwife about your fitness regime and get a thumbs up from them, you are good to lace up and get moving.

A team of researchers at East Carolina University found that mothers who regularly exercised throughout their pregnancy gave birth to babies who were more adept at movement, and potentially more likely to be active as they grow up.

The study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal had a research team recruit a group of 71 pregnant women and divide them into two. One group were assigned to exercise during their pregnancy, while the other half didn't exercise. 

The pregnant women who did exercise completed 50 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, three times a week. The women could choose from training with a treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical (these all happen to be some of the best exercise machines to lose weight), or aerobics.

The researchers concluded that exercise can promote healthy neuro-motor development in infants, and can potentially help to prevent childhood obesity by increasing the likelihood of the child being more active in later life.

Pregnant woman exercises on the floor with light dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty)

The amount of exercise prescribed to the pregnant women in the study also falls in line with recommendations from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG). They say that pregnant women should aim to get in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week.

It doesn't matter how you divide up the time. So you could split the 150 minutes into three 50 minute sessions like the women in the study, or you could turn it into five 30 minute workouts a week. 

Every pregnant woman will experience changes to their body differently and things like energy levels and feelings of fatigue will vary. Make the exercise suit you. If the sound of 30 minutes on the treadmill sounds awful to you, why not try short brisk walks every other day? The ACOG counts gardening as an effective aerobic activity, so there are plenty of activities you work with.

Active pregnancies are becoming more popular online now and pre-natal workouts are much more accessible. Online fitness star and personal trainer, Kayla Istines, who gave birth to a baby girl in 2019 continued to regularly exercise while pregnant and now shares advice to other women looking to stay fit while pregnant.

She told Good Morning America, "There are a lot of benefits if you’re able to work out. Things like walking to clear your mind, working on postural exercises, the sort of things [where] you’re prepping your body for the baby, rather than not doing anything at all."

Feel free to try Itsines's go-to pregnancy workout below. Make sure to grab a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells before starting – these are great for adjusting the weight to what you are most comfortable lifting with.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.