FitMum, pregnant woman running

FitMum: Health benefits of physical activity during pregnancy

A physically active lifestyle during pregnancy has enormous potential to improve maternal and child health. This PhD project investigates how to implement physical activity in pregnant women´s everyday life, and whether physical activity affects health of the pregnant women and their offspring, by testing the efficacy of two very different exercise programs during pregnancy.

Effects of structured supervised exercise training versus motivational counseling supported by health technology on physical activity level and metabolic and clinical health parameters in healthy inactive pregnant women – a PhD project nested in the FitMum Study.


Low levels of physical activity during pregnancy constitute a significant public health issue as increasing evidence suggests that the mother’s lifestyle during pregnancy may influence the future health of her child [Adamo et al. 2012, Barrés & Zierath 2016]. A physically active lifestyle during pregnancy shows potential to improve metabolic health of mother and child [Committee on Obstetric Practice 2015, Harris et al. 2018] and thus may play an important role in relation to counteracting the obesity epidemic and the increasing incidence of metabolic diseases that escalates globally [Adamo et al. 2012, WHO 2016].

However, less than four out of ten Danish pregnant women succeed to achieve 30 minutes of daily physical activity at moderate intensity [Broberg et al. 2015] as recommended by the Danish Health Authorities [The Danish Health Authorities, 2014]. The key gap in evidence and practice towards tackling the significant public health issue of being physically inactive during pregnancy is lack of evidence of how physical activity can be implemented. Only very few and scattered regional or municipal physical activity initiatives are currently targeting Danish pregnant women, and these are mainly targeted overweight women [, 2018]. Implementing and validating means to empower the pregnant women to be physically active have the potential to establish the norm of being physically active during pregnancy and might halt the negative spiral effect of physical inactivity, obesity and metabolic diseases that escalates globally.

Project objectives

This PhD project is nested in the FitMum Study (described under ‘Research Projects’) and will evaluate the effects of two different exercise programs on physical activity level during pregnancy and on clinical and metabolic health parameters in mother and child. This project will have a physiological and mechanistic focus and, besides investigating physical activity level, address whether the physical activity applied in FitMum affects metabolic markers, placental function, and epigenetic adaptations to physical activity in the offspring. The two exercise programs, structured supervised exercise training and motivational counseling supported by health technology, are designed to meet the motivators and overcome the specific barriers for physical activity among pregnant women. The two exercise programs will be tested in a three-armed randomized controlled trial including 220 healthy, physically inactive, pregnant women.

FitMum is carried out in collaboration between University of Copenhagen, Nordsjællands Hospital, Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University and international researchers. The research project will fill the massive gap in evidence and practice on how to implement physical activity in pregnant women’s everyday life and provide the public sector with evidence of the effect of physical activity programs that can be made available to all pregnant women, independent of the social determinants of health.


  • Adamo KB et al. (2012). Can we modify the intrauterine environment to halt the intergenerational cycle of obesity? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 9(4):1263–1307.
  • Barrès R, Zierath JR (2016). The role of diet and exercise in the transgenerational epigenetic landscape of T2DM. Nat Rev Endocrinol. Nature Publishing Group, 12(8):441–51.
  • Committee on Obstetric Practice (2015). Committee Opinion: Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Am Coll Obstet Gynecol. 650:1–8.
  • Harris JE et al. (2018). Maternal Exercise Improves the Metabolic Health of Adult Offspring. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 1–14.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) (2016). Good Maternal Nutrition. The best start in life.
  • Broberg L, et al. (2015). Compliance with national recommendations for exercise during early pregnancy in a Danish cohort. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 15:317.
  • The Danish Health Authorities (2019). Recommendations for pregnant women. Available from here.
  • (2018). Available from here.


Caroline Borup Roland
PhD student
Department of Biomedical Sciences


Bente Merete Stallknecht
Prorector, Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences
+45 35 32 75 40
23 OCTOBER 2021