A new study led by Western University and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid presents overwhelming evidence that women should, whenever possible, exercise during pregnancy to combat high blood pressure, excessive weight gain and oversized babies.

Michelle Mottola, a professor in Western's School of Kinesiology, says that pregnant women should be active and aim to walk 10,000 steps a day during pregnancy because if they don't, the long-term effects could cause health risks to them, as well as their children.

"You can greatly improve your fitness level by walking. Many people think that you have to go to the gym and sweat - and yes, that's true for some people - but walking will also give you great aerobic benefit. It's very important to be physically active during pregnancy. We suggest 10,000 steps a day. If you can walk 10,000 steps a day, that's incredible," says Mottola, who also serves as the director of Western's R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation- Exercise and Pregnancy Lab.

The study, which was a large randomized trial with participants intensely following the suggested exercise program, revealed that without exercise during pregnancy, women are three times more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure), 1.5 times more likely to gain excessive weight and 2.5 times more likely to give birth to macrosomic (or oversized) babies.

"Our findings shows that exercise during pregnancy protects against high blood pressure and macrosomia (oversized babies). Those oversized babies are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, like obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and/or hypertension. We really want to try and prevent those big babies because they are at risk for health issues," explains Mottola.

For more information regarding exercise during pregnancy, please visit http://www.uwo.ca/fhs/EPL/

The findings of the randomized clinical trial were recently published by American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.