INCREASED exercise during the first trimester of pregnancy may lower risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a new study at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA found. GDM is diabetes that is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy. The condition can lead to serious complications throughout the duration of pregnancy and during delivery, as well as long-term health consequences for both mother and child. Exercise is known to be both safe and beneficial during pregnancy, with current recommendations proposing at least 30 min/day, five days per week; this analysis, however, reported that at least 38 min/day were required to lower the risk of GDM.
The study analysed data from the longitudinal Pregnancy Environment and Lifestyle Study (PETALS), which included self-reported data of exercise duration, in the form of a physical activity questionnaire, from 2,246 pregnant participants during their first trimester. The observational study from the University of Tennessee also obtained glucose testing results from electronic health records. The study found that exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 38 min/day reduced the risk of GDM by 2.1 cases/100 participants and the risk of abnormal blood sugar by 4.8 cases/100 participants. The study reported a wide range of pre-pregnancy weights, as well as racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
“We know that six to ten women per 100 get gestational diabetes,” commented Prof Samantha Ehrlich, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee. “If being more active could reduce that by two women per 100, that’s a clear benefit.”
The findings suggest that the current daily recommended exercise duration of 30 minutes during pregnancy require a re-evaluation to ≥38 min/day, to reduce the risk of abnormal glucose screening and to improve chances of preventing GDM.