Faculty Advisor(s)

Nicole Evanosky; Amy Tremback-Ball



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Background: Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and can cause complications for the mother and baby. Poor management of gestational diabetes can lead to a large sized baby, Cesarean section at delivery, preeclampsia, or hypoglycemia in the baby at birth. Physicians advise women, pre-conception and post-conception, to follow a diet and exercise plan in order to decrease the chances of developing gestational diabetes. Studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of proper diet and exercise prior to conception and during pregnancy in the prevention of gestational diabetes.

Purpose: The purpose of the review was to evaluate the role of exercise in preventing gestational diabetes and maternal weight gain.

Methods: A literature search using four search terms (gestational diabetes, exercise, pregnancy, and weight gain) and three filters was performed utilizing PubMed. A screening process and a hand search were done to create a list of twelve articles to be included in the systematic review. Articles were analyzed for quality using a hierarchy of evidence scale.

Results: Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. All were classified as 1b or 2b level of evidence.

Conclusion: The chosen studies provide evidence that support the idea that risk for gestational diabetes can be decreased through weight management and exercise before and during pregnancy. Exercise during the pre-conception period and the first trimester has been found to help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Further research is needed to determine the most effective form of exercise.

Implications: Physical therapy prior to and during pregnancy should be prescribed by physicians in order to help prevent the onset of gestational diabetes. Physical therapists specialize in developing exercise programs, educating patients on nutrition and wellness, and preventing injury due to pregnancy related physical changes.

Publication Date


Document Type



Physical Therapy


Gestational Diabetes, Exercise, Pregnancy, Weight Gain


Medicine and Health Sciences

The Effectiveness of Exercise in the Prevention of Gestational Diabetes: A Systematic Review