The Simple Way to Keep Your Weight in Check

Pregnant women: Don't lace up your running shoes until you've read this new study's surprising findings.

Pregnant-woman-with-laundry-basket James Michelfelder

Struggling to get in a proper prenatal workout? The good news: Moving frequently all day long may be more beneficial for you during pregnancy than a 30-minute trip to the gym during an otherwise sedentary day.

A new preliminary study from Iowa State University of 50 expectant mothers found that it was overall activity levels throughout the day that were most important in limiting excess pregnancy weight gain. (Putting on more than the recommended 25-35 pounds can put a woman at high risk for preeclampsia and set both the woman and child up for future obesity.)

The research also found that pregnant women are sedentary up to a whopping 75 percent of the day, even if they met the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.

"This means that a woman can still exercise for 30 minutes a day (and this is great if she does), but she needs to continue being active the remaining time of the day," study author Christina Campbell, PhD, RD, Associate Professor of Nutrition at Iowa State, tells

In fact, women who move more throughout the day — and never manage to fit in that "workout" — might actually be more active overall, notes Campbell.

While no one is suggesting you skip the gym entirely (the study found, not surprisingly, that the best activity profile is a pregnant woman who is active throughout the day and completes 30 minutes or more of exercise), the research underscores the need to keep active all day long, even during pregnancy.

Ways to Get Moving

Campbell suggests these five easy, safe ideas:

1. Every hour, make sure you stand up and walk for 10 minutes.

2. Create a walking loop at your workplace so you can always take a quick walk regardless of the weather. To make it more fun, count how many steps you take while on the walk, or challenge yourself to complete the walk in a given amount of time.

3. Check out some prenatal exercise DVDs from the library or search for some video clips online. Master a few moves, then challenge yourself to complete a couple of activities during every commercial break when watching TV.

4. Dance while you do the dishes and other household tasks.

5. If you have other kids, take them to the park and play with them.