Exercising can help regulate blood sugar and manage gestational diabetes. Moderate exercise each week is recommended during pregnancy if your pregnancy healthcare professional approves.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gestational diabetes occurs in 2–10% of pregnancies in the United States each year.

When you have gestational diabetes, your body is not able to produce enough insulin. If you do not manage gestational diabetes, high blood glucose levels can lead to serious health complications for both you and your baby.

A combination of a modified diet and moderate exercise is a treatment option for gestational diabetes.

Learn more about gestational diabetes.

Exercise can help reduce your body’s need for insulin if you have gestational diabetes. According to a 2020 research review, studies have shown that engaging in moderate exercise multiple times per week can help manage glucose, HbcA1, and insulin levels.

Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk of weight gain. While some weight gain is healthy during pregnancy, gaining greater than expected amounts can increase the likelihood of high blood pressure and complications during labor and delivery. Regular exercise can also help to prevent this.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says you should ideally aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week during pregnancy. According to one study, if you have gestational diabetes, it’s best to aim for 20–50 minutes of moderate-level exercise at least 2 times each week. This can include aerobic and resistance exercises.

Some exercises that are typically considered safe during pregnancy include:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • modified yoga or Pilates
  • stationary bike riding

Activities to avoid during pregnancy include:

  • contact sports
  • high fall risk activities (like skiing, surfing, gymnastics, off-road cycling, horseback riding)
  • hot yoga or Pilates
  • scuba diving
  • anything done at over 6,000 feet (unless you’re already used to elevation)

Women with certain health conditions should not exercise during pregnancy, according to ACOG. This includes those with:

ACOG advises that you do not exercise if you are pregnant and have certain heart and lung conditions. Individuals who are pregnant with multiple babies and have risk factors for preterm labor should also avoid exercising.

Many individuals are able to manage gestational diabetes through frequent exercise and a modified diet. When your doctor recommends insulin to help manage gestational diabetes, regular exercise may help to reduce the amount of insulin you need.

If you have gestational diabetes, exercising during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of associated health complications.

Especially when gestational diabetes is not treated, it can lead to preeclampsia, preterm births, and an increased risk of delivery by cesarean section. It can also result in low blood sugar, high birth weight, and breathing problems for the baby.

Approximately 50% of individuals with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. Having obesity increases the likelihood of this, so it’s important to continue healthy lifestyle habits like exercising even after giving birth.

What can I do along with exercise to manage my gestational diabetes?

A modified diet low in processed foods and sugars can help treat gestational diabetes. If diet and exercise changes are not sufficient to manage your high blood glucose levels, your doctor may also recommend using insulin.

Is there a best time to exercise if you have gestational diabetes?

Because eating food can raise blood sugar levels for several hours after eating, it may be beneficial to exercise an hour after eating if you have gestational diabetes.

What are some warning signs that I should stop my exercise session?

It is important to stop exercising if you are pregnant and experience:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • regular uterine contractions
  • calf swelling

Frequent exercise can help manage blood sugar levels and weight gain if you have gestational diabetes.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about how you plan to exercise during your pregnancy. Activities like walking, swimming, and modified yoga are usually considered safe during pregnancy, but your doctor may not approve them if you have certain complications or health conditions.