MONDAY, June 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise reduces pregnant women's risk of developing gestational diabetes and also helps control weight gain, a new review shows.
In the report, published recently in the BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Spanish researchers analyzed 13 studies -- including a total of more than 2,800 pregnant women -- who normally did little or no exercise. The studies looked at what happened when the women participated in exercise programs.
"Exercise is not something to be feared during pregnancy -- the moderate levels of exercise used in these studies had significantly positive effects on health and were found to be safe for both mother and baby," lead author Gema Sanabria-Martinez, from Virgen de la Luz Hospital in Cuenca, Spain, said in a journal news release.
Women who exercised reduced their risk of pregnancy-related -- or "gestational" -- diabetes by more than 30 percent. For women who exercised throughout pregnancy, the risk of gestational diabetes was 36 percent lower, the study found.
The benefits were strongest among women who combined toning, strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise, the researchers said.
Another benefit the investigators also found from exercise was a slightly lower weight. Women who exercised during pregnancy were about 2 pounds lighter than women who didn't exercise, the findings showed.
"This careful analysis of previous studies shows a beneficial effect of exercise on healthy pregnant women who ordinarily did little or no exercise," journal deputy editor-in-chief Mike Marsh said in the news release.
"It may influence recommendations for exercise in pregnancy in such women. Further studies are needed to establish whether this effect is seen in all pregnant women," Marsh added.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about gestational diabetes.