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Prenatal physical activity paradox: occupational versus leisure-time physical activity
  1. Chenxi Cai1,2,
  2. Margie H Davenport2
  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Molecular Vaccinology and Molecular Diagnostics, School of Public Health, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, China
  2. 2 Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health, Physical Activity and Diabetes Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation, Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, Alberta Diabetes Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Margie H Davenport, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada; mdavenpo{at}

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Advice and taboos regarding physical activity (PA) during pregnancy have varied widely throughout history, often reflecting the cultural norms and status of pregnant individuals of the day. The first formal set of guidelines for prenatal PA was published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 1985. Prior to these recommendations, pregnant individuals were encouraged to ‘rest and relax’ and strenuous activity was strongly discouraged. However, over the last 40 years there has been an explosion of data demonstrating not only the safety but also the benefits of engaging in prenatal PA. Currently, guidelines from around the world recommend all pregnant individuals without a medical condition that would preclude PA, engage in at least 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA each week to improve maternal and fetal health. However, these documents primarily focus on leisure-time PA (LTPA). In contrast to clear benefits of LTPA, emerging literature suggest excessive prenatal occupational PA may actually be harmful to both mother and fetus.1 2 The conflicting health effects of LTPA and …

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  • Contributors CC and MHD conceived and drafted this editorial.

  • Funding MHD holds the Christenson Professorship in Active Healthy Living.

  • Competing interests MHD was the Chair of the SOGC/CSEP 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.