Introduction

Pregnancy is a unique time in a woman's life in which health awareness increases, and she may be more inclined to accept medical advice to either adopt or continue an active lifestyle. Exercise is considered safe for most women during pregnancy as long as

From: Nutrition and Health: Handbook of Nutrition and Pregnancy Edited by: C.J. Lammi-Keefe, S.C. Couch, E.H. Philipson © Humana Press, Totowa, NJ

there are no medical or obstetrical complications [1]. Although physical activity is often considered part of a healthy lifestyle and leisure time activity, some pregnant women may choose to participate in highly competitive sports.

While the health benefits of physical activity are well recognized in the general population [2-6], exercise is still not adequately accepted as a benefit for pregnant women. Healthcare providers remain cautious and often reluctant to encourage exercise during pregnancy, despite the well-recognized benefits. The hesitation is set in conservative ideas that pregnancy is a time of confinement. With abundant evidence to show that moderate exercise in healthy pregnancies results in benefits and without adverse maternal or fetal outcomes, exercise recommendations made by healthcare providers should be a top priority. It is well recognized that healthy lifestyle behaviors adopted in pregnancy can result in persistent lifestyle modifications that could significantly reduce risk factors associated with obesity, chronic hypertension, and diabetes—not only for the pregnant mother, but also for all members of her family.

In this chapter, we review physiological changes that provide the basis for exercise guidelines and nutritional recommendations in pregnancy, as well as maternal and fetal responses to the potential risks and benefits associated with exercise in pregnancy.

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