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Should You Work Out While Pregnant? New Study Weighs In

Image by Marija Kovac / Stocksy
April 7, 2019

If you've ever been pregnant, are pregnant, or are considering pregnancy in your future, the question of whether or not you should work out has probably come up. Some people say no, some say yes, some are scared to, and some just don't know. It's a topic of serious debate, and the answer varies depending on the person, but the latest findings are not only promising—they’re kind of astounding.

According to a new study done by researchers at Washington State University, exercising during pregnancy is not only safe—it can also help protect your child from future obesity. At present, an estimated 34 percent of adults and 15 to 20 percent of children and adolescents in America are obese1. So to say that this study has major implications for the obesity epidemic is an understatement.

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The study's authors note that while there have been studies in the past demonstrating that exercise by obese females benefits their offspring, this is the first research to show that the same is true when non-obese females exercise. Regardless of the mother's weight, her child will benefit from her exercising during pregnancy.

"Based on our findings, we recommend that women—whether or not they are obese or have diabetes—exercise regularly during pregnancy because it benefits their children's metabolic health," said Jun Seok Son, conductor of the study.

Of course, there are benefits for the mother herself too. Exercise releases feel-good hormones, increases energy, relieves stress, and helps us sleep better, all benefits that any human being, pregnant or not, would want to experience. (Especially the sleep. Put us all down for that.)

As you may have guessed, the inverse is also true: Healthy women who don't exercise during pregnancy can increase their child's risk of obesity and issues with their metabolism.

"Our data suggests that the lack of exercise in healthy women during pregnancy can predispose their children to obesity and associated metabolic diseases partially through impairing thermogenic function," said Son.

As always, you should consult your doctor to figure out what's best for you, but this research further underscores how exercise really is beneficial for everyone—even those still in the womb.

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Ray Bass, NASM-CPT
Ray Bass, NASM-CPT
mbg Associate Movement & Wellness Editor

Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.