Sedentary behaviours during pregnancy: A systematic review

Caterina Fazzi Gómez, David Saunders, Kathryn Linton, Jane Norman, Rebecca Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: In the general population, at least 50% of time awake is spent in sedentary behaviours. Sedentary behaviours are activities that expend less energy than 1.5 metabolic equivalents, such as sitting. The amount of time spent in sedentary behaviours is a risk factor for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death from all causes. Even individuals meeting physical activity guidelines are at a higher risk of premature death and adverse metabolic outcomes if they sit for extended intervals. The associations between sedentary behaviour with type 2 diabetes and with impaired glucose tolerance are stronger for women than for men. It is not known whether sedentary behaviour in pregnancy influences pregnancy outcomes, but if those negative outcomes observed in general adult population also occur in pregnancy, this could have implications for adverse outcomes for mothers and offspring.
We aimed to determine the proportion of time spent in sedentary behaviours among pregnant women, and the association of sedentary behaviour with pregnancy outcomes in mothers and offspring.

Methods: Two researchers independently performed the literature search using 5 different electronic bibliographic databases. Studies were included if sedentary behaviours were assessed during pregnancy. Two reviewers independently assessed the articles for quality and bias, and extracted the relevant information.
Results: We identified 26 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Pregnant women spent more than 50% of their time in sedentary behaviours. Increased time in sedentary behaviour was significantly associated with higher levels of C Reactive Protein and LDL Cholesterol, and a larger newborn abdominal circumference. Sedentary behaviours were significantly higher among women who delivered macrosomic infants. Discrepancies were found in associations of sedentary behaviour with gestational weight gain, hypertensive disorders, and birth weight. No consistent associations were found between sedentary behaviour and other variables such as gestational diabetes. There was considerable variability in study design and methods of assessing sedentary behaviour.

Conclusions: Our review highlights the significant time spent in sedentary behaviour during pregnancy, and that sedentary behaviour may impact on pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child. The considerable heterogeneity in the literature suggests future studies should use robust methodology for quantifying sedentary behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Early online date16 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sedentarism
  • pregnancy
  • sedentary behaviours


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