WEDNESDAY, July 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Obese pregnant women can reduce their risk of gestational diabetes -- diabetes during pregnancy -- and lower their blood pressure by exercising as little as three times a week, a new study finds.

"It's important to reduce obesity-related pregnancy complications because they can have long-term consequences for both the mother and her child," study leader Dr. Trine Moholdt, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a university news release.

"We advise all women to exercise during pregnancy, as long as there aren't any medical reasons that prevent them from exercising," Moholdt added.

Obese women face higher risks of complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. They may also gain more weight during pregnancy than their slimmer counterparts. Obese pregnant women are also more likely to undergo cesarean section delivery and give birth to large babies, the researchers said.

For the new study, 91 pregnant women were randomly placed into one of two groups. One group exercised three times a week under supervision, by walking at a moderate rate on a treadmill for 35 minutes and taking part in strength training for 25 minutes. The other group was given standard prenatal care.

Two women in the exercise group developed gestational diabetes versus nine women in the standard care group, the findings showed. In addition, the women who exercised had lower blood pressure levels shortly before giving birth.

The researchers noted that not all the women in the exercise group attended all of the sessions, and the amount of exercise they did wasn't strenuous.

Kirsti Krohn Garnaes, a graduate student involved with the study, said the findings showed that "even a little training during pregnancy can be beneficial."

The study was published online July 26 in PLOS Medicine.

More information

For more about gestational diabetes, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.