Physical activity counseling in maternity and child health care – a controlled trial


The purpose of the study is to examine the effects and feasibility of individual physical activity counseling in maternity and child health clinics in Finland.


Three maternity and child health clinics signed up for the experimental group and three for the control group. The participants were 132 pregnant women and 92 women after the birth of their first child.

In the experimental group the nurses integrated a primary and four booster physical activity counseling sessions into routine visits. An option for supervised group exercise was offered.

In the control group former practices, usually including brief physical activity advice, were continued. Leisure-time physical activity prior to pregnancy was elicited by questionnaire and followed 16–18 and 36–37 weeks’ gestation in maternity clinics and 5 and 10 months after childbirth in child health clinics. Feasibility included safety, participant responsiveness, realization of counseling and applicability.


According to analysis of covariance adjusted for baseline leisure-time physical activity and possible confounders, no relative between-group differences in leisure-time physical activity were found at the first follow-up in either maternity or child health clinics.

At the last follow-up in maternity clinics the weekly number of at least moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity days was 43% higher and the weekly duration of at least moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity 154% higher in the experimental group compared with the control group. Counseling proved feasible in both maternity and child health clinics.


Counseling encouraged pregnant women to sustain their moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity and was feasible in routine practices. No effects were observed if counseling was initiated postpartum.




Minna Aittasalo, Researcher



For publications (international and Finnish) of this research see the Finnish description.
To find the list of publications (Julkaisuja), scroll the page down.

Last Modified: 27.11.2014


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