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Staying active with gestational diabetes

If you have gestational diabetes, exercise can help you manage your condition by reducing your glucose levels.

Physical activity lowers your glucose level, so regular exercise can be an effective way to manage gestational diabetes.

Safe exercise in pregnancy

Exercise is not dangerous for your baby. Some women worry about their baby being shaken around while they exercise, but this isn’t the case. Your baby is safe and secure in your womb and may even find the movement relaxing.

If you were active before you got pregnant, you should aim to keep the same level of fitness. You may find you slow down naturally towards the end of pregnancy as your bump grows.

If you’re not very active, the idea of starting now can be quite daunting. But you don’t need to join a gym or pay for expensive exercise classes. It’s important to start gradually and not suddenly take up strenuous exercise.

The normal recommendation is to aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity a week, plus strength exercises on 2 or more days a week.

Find out more about how active you should be in pregnancy.

As a general rule, you should still be able to hold a conversation as you exercise. If you become breathless, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. Keep exercise moderate, with rest periods, so that you do not become exhausted. Discuss your plans for exercise with your healthcare team. They will be able to advise you on what to do, how often and for how long.

Find out more about what kind of exercise you could try during pregnancy.

Avoid sitting down as much as possible

Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting down (being sedentary) can help. This can be difficult if you work in an office or if you’re feeling tired. But you could try:

  • walking or cycling to work
  • standing on the bus or train, or getting off a stop earlier
  • walking to a co-workers desk instead of emailing or calling
  • setting a reminder on your phone to stand up regularly
  • taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • heading to the park during your lunch break
  • walking any other children to school, nursery or toddler group.

Monitoring your glucose levels

Hypoglycaemia (low glucose levels) mainly affects people with diabetes before pregnancy, especially if they take insulin. Higher intensity or prolonged exercise can cause low blood sugar, so try eating a healthy snack (fruit, yogurt, 2-3 whole wheat crackers or oatcakes) before or after exercising.

Try to monitor your glucose levels before and after exercise to know how exercise affects your glucose levels.

NHS Choices. Gestational diabetes. (Page last reviewed: 06/08/2019. Next review due: 06/08/2022)

NHS Choices. Exercise in pregnancy (Page last reviewed: 14/01/2017. Next review due: 14/01/2020)

Review dates
Reviewed: 24 July 2020
Next review: 24 July 2023

This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.