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Medical officers issue guidance on exercise during pregnancy

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Pregnant women should do about 150 minutes of “moderate intensity” activity every week, according to new guidance from the UK’s chief medical officers.

The guidance, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, also includes new recommendations that are aimed at reducing obesity, diabetes and other health problems during pregnancy.

”We encourage pregnant women to listen to their body and adapt their exercise regime accordingly”

Professor Sally Davies

The medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland defined moderate exercise as “activity that makes you breathe faster” while still being able to have a conversation.

The new advice is being distributed through an infographic (attached below), aimed at providing nurses, midwives, GPs, obstetricians, gynaecologists, as well as the leisure sector, with the latest evidence on physical activity during pregnancy.

“We want to ensure pregnant women are aware of the benefits of being active throughout their pregnancy and are clear about the type of activities that are safe,” said CMO for England Professor Sally Davies.

Women who were not active before their pregnancy are advised to avoid intense exercise, such as running, jogging, racquet sports and strenuous strength training, but some activities can be adapted.

”We want to ensure pregnant women are aware of the benefits… and are clear about the type of activities that are safe”

Professor Sally Davies

The latest evidence shows that regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy reduces hypertensive disorders, improves cardiorespiratory fitness, lowers weight gain and reduces the risk of diabetes, said Professor Davies.

“We encourage pregnant women to listen to their body and adapt their exercise regime accordingly. A general rule is if it feels pleasant, keep going; if it is uncomfortable, then stop and seek advice,” she said.

Women who were not active before pregnancy are recommended to follow a gradual progression of exercise - beginning with 10 minute bouts of moderate intensity exercise, gradually building up to 150 minutes. The activity should be spread throughout the week.

The new guidance was developed by the CMO’s expert committee for physical activity and pregnancy, which included midwives, obstetricians, exercise physiologists, GPs, public health consultants, sports medicine experts, exercise professionals, nursing and research scientists.

The project was led by Professor Marian Knight and Dr Charlie Foster from the University of Oxford.

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