Moderate physical activity is not the same as daily, routine activities, such as shopping, doing household chores, or washing dishes. Women with gestational diabetes often need regular, moderate physical activity, such as walking, prenatal aerobics class, or swimming, to help control blood sugar levels.
Your health care provider may tell you not to do any moderate physical activity because of other health conditions you have or because of complications with your pregnancy. Do not begin any physical activity without talking to your health care provider first.
Moderate physical activity is an important part of any healthy pregnancy. For women with gestational diabetes, it also helps their bodies' insulin work better, which is an effective way to help control blood sugar 2, 6 levels.
Researchers are uncertain about the amount of physical activity that best helps a woman with gestational diabetes to control her blood sugar. The specific amount of physical activity that you need depends on how active you were before you were pregnant, and whether or not you have any other health concerns. For some women with gestational diabetes, regular, moderate physical activity includes walking, swimming, or light running. For other women, only slow walking is recommended. Talk to your health care provider about what activities you should do, how often, and for how long.
One thing you need to watch is your level of effort, called your exertion (pronounced ecks-ER-shun) level. If you can talk easily while doing an activity, instead of gasping for air, your level of exertion is good. If you cannot talk easily, or find yourself coughing or gasping for air, you need to lower your level of exertion by slowing down or stopping for a while. Your health care provider can advise you on the best level of exertion for you.
Most women can stay active throughout their pregnancies. However, your health care provider may recommend that you become less active as you get closer to your due date. Keep in mind that it may take two-to-four weeks for your physical activity to have an effect on your blood sugar levels.
Listen to your body—Your body will tell you how much activity is enough. It will also let you know when you are doing too much. Quit when you feel tired. If you feel faint, dizzy, or extremely hot, you should stop the activity immediately.
If you are taking insulin, see the Take medications and/or insulin as prescribed section of this booklet for tips about physical activity and insulin.
The general guidelines listed below will help to ensure safety while doing physical activity.