Women in their third trimester of pregnancy who are highly physically active are less likely to have an acute cesarean birth than women with low physical activity levels, according to findings from the Norwegian Fit for Delivery study (a randomized controlled trial).

University of Agder and Norwegian School of Sports Science researchers conducted a secondary data analysis on 606 healthy pregnant women, randomized into two groups: dietary counseling and twice-weekly group exercise program participants (n = 303) and a control group receiving standard care (n = 303).

Researchers conducted the analysis because questions remain regarding the impact of regular exercise on labor and delivery. Investigators found that the only differences between groups were a longer first stage of labor among exercisers and an association between higher levels of exercise and lower odds of cesarean delivery.

Lead study author Birgitte Sanda, MD, PhD, said, “The association between physical activity level and mode of delivery might help motivate more women to engage in regular physical activity before and during pregnancy, which in turn will give ad┬¡ditional health benefits for the women and their babies.”

The study is available in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica (2018; doi:10.1111/aogs.13351).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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