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UK Chief Medical Officers issue advice for health professionals on physical exercise during pregnancy

UK Chief Medical Officers issue advice for health professionals on physical exercise during pregnancy:

  • New advice on types and amount of safe physical exercise for pregnant women
  • Recommends up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, plus strength and balance activities
  • Women encouraged to listen to their bodies and adapt their physical activity accordingly
  • Recommendations aim to reduce obesity, diabetes and address other health concerns for pregnant women. 

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have jointly released new advice on physical exercise for expectant mothers— believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

The new recommendations aim to reduce issues such as obesity, diabetes and other health concerns during pregnancy. The latest evidence suggests pregnant women should carry out around 150 minutes of ‘moderate intensity’ activity every week.

This is described as ‘activity that makes you breathe faster’ while still being able to hold a conversation. 

This new advice is being issued in the form of an infographic, aimed at providing midwives, nurses, GPs, obstetricians, gynaecologists, as well as the leisure sector, with the latest evidence on physical activity during pregnancy.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“We want to ensure pregnant women are aware of the benefits of being active throughout their pregnancy and are clear about the type of activities that are safe.

“The latest evidence shows that regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy reduces hypertensive disorders, improves cardiorespiratory fitness, lowers weight gain and reduces the risk of diabetes.

“We encourage pregnant women to listen to their body and adapt their exercise regime accordingly. A general rule is if it feels pleasant, keep going; if it is uncomfortable, then stop and seek advice. 

Women who have not been active before pregnancy are recommended to follow a gradual progression of exercise—beginning with 10 minute bouts of moderate intensity exercise, gradually building up to 150 minutes. The activity should be spread throughout the week, and it is important to remember that ‘every activity counts’. 

The new advice was constructed by the CMO Expert Committee for Physical Activity and Pregnancy, which included midwives, obstetricians, exercise physiologists, GPs, public health consultants, sports medicine experts, exercise professionals, nursing and research scientists. The project was led by Professor Marian Knight and Dr Charlie Foster from the University of Oxford. The aim was to produce evidence-based messaging for health professionals to use with the public. The infographic was developed and tested with panels of health professionals and pregnant women before consultation with more than 250 UK-based doctors and midwives. 

Health professionals are encouraged to use this infographic to discuss the benefits of physical activity with all pregnant women, to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, with approximately 1 in 20 women being recorded as obese during pregnancy.

The key points are:

Pregnant women who are already active should be encouraged to maintain moderate physical activity levels.

Women may need to adapt their activity throughout their pregnancy. For example, replacing contact sports with a non-contact sport or an appropriate exercise class.

Importantly, the evidence supporting this infographic found no evidence of harm for mother or infant resulting from moderate intensity physical activity. 

Those who were not active before their pregnancy are advised to avoid intense exercise, such as running, jogging, racquet sports and strenuous strength training. But some activities can be adapted.

The study recommends pregnant women avoid activities where there is an increased risk of falling, trauma or high impact injuries. These include skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, horse riding and contact sports such as ice hockey, boxing, football or basketball. They are also discouraged from exercise that requires lying flat on their back after the first trimester. 

If you experience breathlessness before or following minimal exertion, headaches, dizziness, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance and calf pain or swelling, seek medical advice. Women may also be advised to reduce/stop physical activity following pregnancy complications such as vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions or amniotic fluid leakage.

The final safety message is a common sense ‘don’t bump the bump’, referring to all activities which place pregnant women at an increased risk of injury through physical contact.   

Notes to editors: For further information, please contact media and campaigns officer Dave Betros-Matthews.  



Major new study on health & wellbeing benefits of #swimming released

Major new study on health benefits of swimming released. The executive summary of the full scientific report can be found here and strategic response by Swim England here.

For more information access: http://j.mp/HealthCommissionReport

 Key messages:

  • Swimming is uniquely placed to support people throughout their entire life.
  • Swimming lowers the risk of early death by 28%.
  • Swimming lessons help children to develop skills quicker.
  • Swimming and aquatic activity is a safe, cost effective and viable option for healthcare professionals to signpost patients.
  • Call for more research on the impact of physical activity on mental health and long term conditions. 

A new study that evidences the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming has been

released today by Swim England.


The report shows that the unique benefits of water make it the perfect place for people of all

ages to exercise, particularly those with long term health conditions.


The report also found evidence that swimmers live longer and regular swimming helps older

people stay mentally and physically fit. Importantly, it also showed that participation in

swimming lessons can help children to develop physical, cognitive and social skills quicker

than those who do not have lessons.


Swim England commissioned the independent report and will use the findings to raise

awareness within the health profession that swimming is a safe, cost effective and viable

option to signpost patients. 

The national governing body for swimming in England is also calling on the wider health and

sports sector to come together and invest in further research on the impact of physical

activity on mental health and long term conditions.


Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO, said: “It is evident from the report that swimming has

enormous potential to support the health and wellbeing of the nation. The unique properties

of water means that unlike other activities, no one is restricted from taking part.

“The report particularly highlights the benefits of swimming and aquatic activities for people

with mental health concerns or problems with their joints and muscles. This supports

findings from our Dementia Friendly Swimming project, but is an area where further research

across the health and sports sector is required.

“We will use the report findings to continue to develop our Health and Wellbeing Model and

our Aquatic Activity for Health qualification. We will also be working closely with the

swimming workforce and health practitioners to increase awareness of the benefits of

swimming and make it a viable option for signposting patients.”


Mike Farrar, Swim England Group Board Chairman and former CEO of the NHS

Confederation, said: “For too long, national guidelines have concentrated on the cardio

vascular benefits of exercise undertaken by healthy people, rather than on those who are

less fit or have long term health conditions.

“To fully understand the links between physical activity and health in the general population,

we would need to see more national resources invested into research. This report shows

that activities like swimming really do have the potential to be a game-changer in supporting

the health of this nation, especially at a time when cuts to services means less money for

long-term care.”


The reports remit was developed by the Swimming and Health Commission under the

Chairmanship of Professor Ian Cumming. The Health Education England Chief Executive,

said: “The Swimming and Health Commission was established by Swim England to explore

the evidence base for the health benefits of swimming. The resulting academic report is a

ground-breaking collection of papers that identify striking and robust evidence for the

significant improvements in health and quality of life that swimming produces.

“Swim England is the first sport governing body to support such an in-depth investigation of

its relationship with health and wellbeing and I would like to applaud them for their foresight

and for producing a piece of work that I am sure will become a reference document for many

years to come.”

Many thanks to all the authors of the report, Exercise Works!, Seven Stones Design and the Swim England Swimming and Health Commission.

The full Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming report and Swim England’s response

can be accessed via: http://www.swimming.org/swimengland/new-report-shows-health-benefits-swimming/


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Alison Clowes via

alison.clowes@swimming.org or 07919 548039

Infographics with statistical information are available on request.


About the Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming report

The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming report was commissioned by the Swimming and

Health Commission on behalf of Swim England to explore the impact of swimming on physical, mental

and social wellbeing. It has been written by a range of eminent academics and is supported by the

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

About Swim England

Formally known as the Amateur Swimming Association, Swim England is the national governing body

for swimming in England. It helps people learn how to swim, enjoy the water safely, and compete in

all aquatic sports.

The vision of Swim England is of a nation swimming and it strives to inspire everyone to enjoy the

water in the way that suits them. Each month millions of people are able to enjoy swimming, diving,

water polo and synchronised swimming, having been through the Swim England Learn to Swim


Swim England also supports its members, clubs and athletes, and runs qualification and education

programmes to develop the workforce. For more information visit swimming.org/swimengland


Physiotherapy, Exercise & Physical Activity 2016 Post-Course blog by Dr Anne Griffin @AnneGriffinDiet

Physiotherapy, Exercise & Physical Activity 2016 #PEPA16 Post-Course blog

by Dr Anne Griffin, Registered Dietitian and Member of Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute.

Figure 1: Equipment to promote being more active is now brought along to all health events

#PEPA16 caught my eye on a post from the AHPs4PH Facebook page.  In Ireland, statutory registration was being introduced for dietitians with a responsibility to maintain planned continuous professional development (CPD) that is relevant to role and supports competency to practice. #PEPA16 1 was a free online course lasting 6 weeks. It was developed by two educational organisations who had experienced practitioners in physiotherapy and health promotion to develop the content. I had to pass a short quiz, reflect on my learning from each module and its relevance to my practice, participate in the online discussion forums, and complete assignments to progress.  So, it ticked all the right boxes when it came to CPD!

However, what I really wanted was a better understanding of activity.  When it comes to lifestyle there are two givens – you must eat and move, in some sense, everyday!  I can assume that I have a good understanding around nutrition after nearly 20 years of qualification. But, when it came to recommending activity I would quote the national recommendation “aim for 30 minute of moderate activity most days of the week”.  But, if the patient complained of barriers to achieving this (e.g. arthritis, asthma, diabetes, too old, too sore, too heavy, no time, etc.), I would document it as “not possible now due to …, refer to physio”.

Increasingly, I was frustrated with inability to motivate and empower my patients.  Physical inactivity is linked with many chronic health problems including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, depression and osteoporosis.2 All my patient types. I have previous experience in health promotion so the concept of having a life-stage approach to encourage greater physical activity particularly appealed to me.1,3, 4

The course covered all aspects of the evidence for physical activity, health benefits and best practice models, based on a variety of national and international guidelines.  The modules included:

  •  Basic principles of the relation between exercise and health
  •  Global issues surrounding physical activity
  •  Role of physical activity in chronic illness
  •  Role of physical activity in specific conditions
  •  Integrating physical activity into clinical practice       

What did I learn? The key message I received was making every contact count!  Simply knowing and having a better understanding of the use of the terms and their implied definition of ‘exercise’ (implies lots of sweat and energy), ‘activity’ (implies frequent walking, aerobic classes), and ‘moving more’ (implies sitting less) helps identify barriers to physical activity. I can work with my patients to overcome these.5 Overall, my better understanding of physical activity means I am no longer afraid that advice I give to increase physical activity levels will do harm. Indeed, I am convinced it will benefit overall health and wellbeing.

Where am I now? I prescribe activity using the FITT principal.6 I have integrated physical activity to ALL patient care plans, developed specific resources to promote physical activity depending on patients’ capabilities and a local directory of available classes (from aerobics to dancing) and venues offering a safe place (e.g. lighted parks) to be active.  I give time and importance to physical activity within a range of settings: workplace, school, charities, community groups.  I have hula hoops, skipping ropes and marbles amongst my equipment of scales and stadiometers!

Where to next? I personally believe that MECC is a skill that must be revisited, reviewed and reflected upon continuously. I also recognise experiential learning as an important aspect to motivating patients to change and so I hope to undertake some new activity classes that I haven’t tried before, such as tai chi. 

Finally, I aim to advocate for physical activity among my patients, contacts, colleagues, peers, my family and friends. Supporting a global #movementformovement

A NEW, free, open, online exercise and health course is available via The Peoples Uni: you can register for the exercise and health course here.


1. Physiotherapy, Exercise and Physical Activity Course http://www.physio-pedia.com/Physiotherapy,_Exercise_and_Physical_Activity_Course (accessed 18/03/2017)
2. Sallis R. (2010) Developing healthcare systems to support exercise: exercise as the fifth vital sign. British Journal of Sports and Medicine; 45:473-4
3. World Health Organization and International Longevity Centre-UK (2000) The Implications for Training of Embracing a Life Course Approach to Health. World Health Organization, Geneva. Available at: http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/lifecourse/alc_lifecourse_training_en.pdf (accessed 18/03/2017)
4. HSE National Health Promotion Office (2011): The Health Promotion Strategic Framework.  http://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPSF_HSE.pdf
5. Content in the "Personal Barriers" section was taken from Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action (USDHHS, 1999).
6. Cardiorespiratory Exercise Prescription in ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (2012). P466.  Eds David P. Swain & Clinton A. Brawner, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Blog moderated by Ann Gates, CEO @exerciseworks