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New Study Reveals How to Prevent Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Tim Boyer's picture

Weight gain during pregnancy has negative health outcomes not only for the mother, but according to recent research may also predispose an infant to a future life of obesity. The good news is that by instituting two key factors backed by scientific research, pregnant women can control their gestational weight gain while eating for two. The following is a summary of a recent study that reveals how to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy and undermines one myth about pregnancy.

In a recent study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers performed a side-by-side comparison of normal-weight expectant mothers who were either on a low- or moderate-intensity exercise program while on a restricted diet, to normal-weight expectant mothers who did not participate in an exercise program or consume a restricted diet.

The study involved 49 women who were between 16 and 20 weeks pregnant that were divided into two groups that were assigned either a low-intensity or high-intensity walking exercise regimen. Their exercise program consisted of walking sessions three to four times per week, in which the participants gradually increased their exercise time from 25 to 40 min per session. Both groups were placed on a restricted diet typical of one prescribed for pregnant women with gestational diabetes.

The control group consisted of 45 normal-weight women who did not participate in any structured exercise program during their pregnancy, nor were placed on any type of specialized diet.

The purpose of the study was to determine what effect an exercise program of different intensities in conjunction with nutritional control can have on gestational weight gain during the pregnancy, the amount of weight retained 2 months after giving birth, and its impact on infant birth weight.

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What the researchers discovered was that the two exercise/diet groups gained less weight and were less likely to gain excessive weight in comparison to the control group that neither exercised nor consumed a restricted diet. Furthermore, two months post-partum, 28% of the women in the moderate-intensity group were within approximately 4.4 pounds of their normal weight before becoming pregnant in comparison to 7% in the control group.

The study also revealed that exercising while on a specialized diet did not influence the birth weight of the infants.

In a press release, lead author Stephanie-May Ruchat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Western Ontario in Canada says that the general understanding of pregnant women needing to eat more because they are “eating for two” needs to be modified.

"Myths about nutrition in pregnancy can also be misleading. For example, mothers-to-be should be warned that 'eating for two' does not mean they need to eat twice as much, but that they should eat twice as healthy," says Ruchat. "An increase of only 200 to 500 kilocalories per day in the second and third trimester is recommended, depending on the body-mass index of the women prior to pregnancy. The heavier the woman is, the fewer extra calories per day she will need during pregnancy."

For a free online copy of the study, follow this link to the published article titled “Nutrition and Exercise Reduce Excessive Weight Gain in Normal-Weight Pregnant Women” courtesy of the publishers of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Nutrition and Exercise Reduce Excessive Weight Gain in Normal-Weight Pregnant Women” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (August 2012) Volume 44, Issue 8, pp. 1419–1426; Ruchat, Stephanie-May et al.