A new study found that pregnant women who exercise more during the first trimester of pregnancy may have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The analysis found that at least 38 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day was associated with the lower risk, which is a little more than the current recommendations of at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Gestational diabetes refers to diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy and can pose serious health problems, including pregnancy and delivery complications as well as increased future risk for diabetes in both mother and child, according to the study authors.

“We know that exercise is safe and beneficial for healthy pregnant women. These results show that exercise is helpful in avoiding gestational diabetes, though you might need to do a little bit more than currently recommended to enjoy that benefit,” said Samantha Ehrlich, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a press release.

The study was based on women’s self-reported levels of exercise during their first trimester of pregnancy. It found that exercising least 38 minutes per day lowered the risk of gestational diabetes by 2.1 cases per 100 women and the risk of abnormal blood sugar by 4.8 cases per 100 women, according to the study authors.

“We know that 6 to 10 women per 100 get gestational diabetes,” Ehrlich said in a press release. “If being more active could reduce that by two women per 100, that’s a clear benefit.”

The study analyzed data collected for the Pregnancy Environment and Lifestyle Study, which included a physical activity questionnaire from 2246 pregnant members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California. The women in the study were racially and ethnically diverse and of a wide range of pre-pregnancy weight classifications.

The study authors suggest that the current recommendations may need to be rethought to improve women’s chances of preventing gestational diabetes with exercise. The most recent guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were updated in 2020, and those from the US Department of Health and Human Services were updated in 2018.

Team Led by Researcher Finds Increased First-Trimester Exercise May Reduce Gestational Diabetes Risk. University of Tennessee Knoxville. https://news.utk.edu/2021/01/11/team-led-by-researcher-finds-increased-first-trimester-exercise-may-reduce-gestational-diabetes-risk/. Published January 11, 2021. Accessed January 12, 2021.