Researchers in Australia are conducting a unique diabetes study to see whether regular exercise can help prevent pregnant women developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).
For the study, 200 healthy women who are less than 14 weeks pregnant and have a history of GDM will participate in a 14-week cycling program aimed at preventing re-occurrence of the condition.
“Once you’ve had GDM your chance of developing it in subsequent pregnancies can be as high as 70 per cent so we’re targeting high risk women in this study,” UWA Associate Professor Kym Guelfi says.
The women will be monitored by experts from the University of Western Australia’s School of Women’s and Infants’ Health and School of Sports Science, Exercise and Health, who will compare rates of re-occurring GDM in the cycling group with those in a control group who maintain their normal exercise levels over the 14 weeks.
“For the cycling group, we put a stationary bike inside the home and three times a week a personal trainer visits for supervised training,” Prof Guelfi explains. “We wanted to make the exercise as convenient as possible by removing barriers such as travel, weather conditions and childcare.”
As well as monitoring the effect of regular cycling on blood glucose levels, the researchers will also assess the effect regular exercise has on a number of other health parameters, including aerobic fitness, mobility, weight gain, sleep quality and mental health.
Gestational diabetes occurs when hormones produced in the placenta prevent the body’s insulin from working, causing a spike in blood glucose. It affects one in 12 pregnancies in Australia and can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity for both woman and child in later life.

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