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What should I do if I have gestational diabetes? (Cont'd)

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Get regular, moderate physical activity

What is it?

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.

Why do I have to do it?

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.

How do I do it?

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.

When do I do it?

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.

How do I know that I'm doing it right?

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.


Do Don't
Moderate and regular physical activity unless your health care provider tells you not to. Get too tired while working out or doing physical activity.
Choose activities like swimming, that don't require a lot of standing or balance. Do any activity while lying on your back when you are in your 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy.
Wear loose, light clothing that won't make you sweat too much or get too hot. Perform activities in very hot weather.
Drink a lot of water before, during, and after your activity. Perform activities that may bump or hurt your belly, or that may cause you to lose your balance.
Eat a healthy diet and gain the right amount of weight. Fast (skip meals) or do physical activity when you are hungry.
Watch your level of exertion (Can you talk easily?). Over-exert yourself.

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Last Reviewed: 08/17/2006
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology