• Exercise;
  • intervention;
  • meta-analysis;
  • pregnancy;
  • weight gain

Please cite this paper as: Streuling I, Beyerlein A, Rosenfeld E, Hofmann H, Schulz T, von Kries R. Physical activity and gestational weight gain: a meta-analysis of intervention trials. BJOG 2011;118:278–284.

Background  High gestational weight gain (GWG) has been found to be associated with a number of adverse perinatal and long-term outcomes.

Objectives  We aimed to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis to find out whether physical activity in pregnancy might help avoid high GWG.

Search strategy  A literature search in relevant databases and an additional search by hand through bibliographies of various publications were performed.

Selection criteria  We included randomised controlled trials on healthy women, with increased physical activity as the only intervention. GWG had to be documented for the intervention and control group separately.

Data collection and analysis  Two reviewers independently extracted data and performed quality assessment. Data from the included trials were combined using a random-effects model. The effect size was expressed as mean difference (MD).

Main results  Of 1380 studies identified, 12 trials met the inclusion criteria. In seven trials, GWG was lower in the exercise group compared with the control group, whereas five trials showed a lower GWG in the control groups. The meta-analysis resulted in an MD of GWG of −0.61 (95% CI: −1.17, −0.06), suggesting less GWG in the intervention groups compared with the control groups. We found no indication for publication bias or dose effects.

Author’s conclusions  In summary, our analyses suggest that physical activity during pregnancy might be successful in restricting GWG.