Overweight and obesity during pregnancy raise the risk of gestational diabetes and birth complications. Lifestyle factors like physical activity may decrease these risks through beneficial effects on glucose homeostasis. Here we examined physical activity patterns and their relationships with measures of glucose homeostasis in late pregnancy compared to non-pregnant women.
Normal weight and overweight women without diabetes (N = 108; aged 25-35 years) were studied; 35 were pregnant (in gestational weeks 28-32) and 73 were non-pregnant.
Insulin sensitivity and β-cell response were estimated from an oral glucose tolerance test. Physical activity was measured during 10-days of free-living using a combined heart rate sensor and accelerometer. Total (TEE), resting (REE), and physical activity (PAEE) energy expenditure were measured using doubly-labeled water and expired gas indirect calorimetry.
Total activity was associated with reduced first-phase insulin response in both pregnant (Regression r2 = 0.11; Spearman r = -0.47; p = 0.007) and non-pregnant women (Regression r2 = 0.11 Spearman; r = -0.36; p = 0.002). Relative to non-pregnant women, pregnant women were estimated to have secreted 67% more insulin and had 10% lower fasting glucose than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women spent 13% more time sedentary, 71% less time in moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, had 44% lower objectively measured total activity, and 12% lower PAEE than non-pregnant women. Correlations did not differ significantly for any comparison between physical activity subcomponents and measures of insulin sensitivity or secretion.
Our findings suggest that physical activity conveys similar benefits on glucose homeostasis in pregnant and non-pregnant women, despite differences in subcomponents of physical activity.