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The potential impact of physical activity during pregnancy on maternal and neonatal outcomes.

INTRODUCTION: Pregnancy is a critical period of body weight regulation. Maternal obesity and excessive gestational weight gain have become increasingly common and contribute to poor obstetrical outcomes for mother and baby. Regular participation in physical activity may improve risk profiles in pregnant women.

PURPOSE AND METHODS: Our objectives were to provide an overview of maternal-fetal exercise physiology, summarize current evidence on the effects of physical activity during pregnancy on maternal-fetal outcomes, and review the most recent clinical practice guidelines. In addition, we summarize the findings in the context of the current obesity epidemic and discuss implications for clinical practice. A literature review was completed in which we queried OVID (Medline), EMBASE, and PSYCHINFO databases with title words "exercise or physical activity" and "pregnancy or gestation" from 1950 to March 1, 2010. A total of 212 articles were selected for review.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Care providers should recommend physical activity to most pregnant women (i.e., those without contraindications) and view participation as a safe and beneficial component of a healthy pregnancy.

TARGET AUDIENCE: Obstetricians & Gynecologists and Family Physicians.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After participating in this CME activity, physicians should be better able to classify the potential impact of physical activity on maternal glycemic control and fetal growth outcomes. Assess maternal lifestyle and provide recommendations on appropriate gestational weight gain, evaluate pregnant women for contraindications to physical activity participation, make individualized recommendations for exercise participation, and educate patients on the merits of physical activity for health benefit.

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