First-time mothers who consume their five-a-day of fruits and vegetables are more likely to exercise during pregnancy, according to a new study.
The UCC researchers spoke to 2,000 mothers at 15 weeks of gestation and also found that older mothers were more inclined to exercise than younger ones.
International guidelines recommend 30 minutes or more of daily, moderate physical activity during pregnancy.
This helps prevent complications, limit weight gain, and decrease the risk of gestational diabetes.
Exercising in pregnancy could strengthen the baby’s lungs and nervous system.
Six out of 10 expectant women were of normal weight, 28% were overweight, and 12% were obese.
The research found that Irish women aged between 30 and 34 years were more likely to exercise vigorously, compared to women under 25 years of age.
Non-smokers were more likely to be in the high physical activity bracket.
The researchers added: “Women who consumed the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day, and at least one serving of oily fish per week, were more likely to be in the high physical activity subgroup.
“[This] indicates some awareness around healthy lifestyle behaviours during pregnancy.”
The study, which has just been published in the BMJ Open Journal, examined the exercise habits of 1,774 women in Cork, aged from 17 to 45 years.
The study, whose authors include Caragh Flannery, found that pregnant women with a higher educational level, and in a higher social class, were more likely to engage in moderate levels of physical activity.
The authors of the study said: “Similar to other studies, factors associated with exercise during pregnancy include income level, no other children at home, white ethnicity, and activity prior to pregnancy.
“Women with a high education may have access to more information, may be aware of the recommended guidelines, and have more time for physical activity during pregnancy.
“From a public health perspective, a key concern is social inequalities in physical activity, as physical activity participation varies by socioeconomic status, favouring those in a higher social class.”
Previous research found that, in Ireland, only one-fifth of pregnant women met physical activity guidelines, and 10% of pregnant women did no physical activity.
The study used data from Scope, a major study of pregnant women in Ireland; the population-based nature of the study allowed the estimation of links to a variety of factors relating to first-time mothers.
It showed that pregnant women in the obese BMI category were more likely to partake in moderate exercise, as opposed to low amounts of exercise.