Project NATAL - An innovative co-designed exergame for pregnant women

Sedentary lifestyles result in a high risk of development of preventable chronic disease ie Metabolic syndrome, Diabetes, CVD. Particularly for pregnant women, sedentary lifestyles and obesity can lead to severe consequences for both the mother and the baby. For example, serious health conditions such as stillbirth, congenital anomalies, preterm birth, low birth weight, gestational hypertension and  gestational diabetes and increased rate of caesarean section have all been reported. 

Consequently, providing sedentary pregnant women with safe, engaging and palatable options to undertake physical activity are critical for the health of mother and infant alike. One option recently proposed includes the use of exergaming, whereby affordable technology though game consoles are used to promote physical activity. These exergames can be used in the safety of a home environment, involve fun and engaging gaming technology to promote physical activity. 

This project aims at designing an exergame systems that provides appropriate balance between exertion and entertainment, whilst avoiding contraindications that exist for pregnant women during exercise. 

This work is being undertaken by a cross-faculty team  involving FEIT, Faculty of Health and in collaboration with industry partner,  NSW Health Get Healthy in Pregnancy.


Nearly half (45.6%) of Australian women of childbearing age are overweight or obese and 20% are obese (BMI ≥30kg/m2). Obesity in pregnancy is associated with short and long term adverse outcomes for both mother and baby and increased hospital length of stay after childbirth. Increased bed days in hospital carries a significant cost burden to the health system. Physical activity is as an important modifiable factor to improve physical health and prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes. 

Guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy recommend that women aim for moderate-intensity physical activity for 30 minutes per day. Despite the significant health benefits of regular exercise, the majority of Australian pregnant women do not meet the current recommendations for physical activity. Perceived barriers to exercise for pregnant women have been identified, hence, innovative approaches to overcome these barriers are critical. 

Recently, exergaming has been proposed as a method to encourage physical activity in sedentary and high-risk populations  with contraindications akin to pregnant women.  Fittingly, exergames may be an advantageous to aid motivation for exercise by connecting the fun of electronic games with physical activity  in the home environment.

The current popularity of exergaming makes it a promising substitute to traditional physical activity, having the potential to increase satisfaction, motivation and adherence to regular exercise. This is particularly meaningful for sedentary obese pregnant women, who are less likely to voluntarily engage in regular physical activity. Home based exergaming may be also more desirable than exercising in groups for obese women who often have poor body image , prefer not to engage in exercise groups for cultural reasons, or in circumstances where access to training facilities is limited.

This project will design and develop an exergame prototype that will assist pregnant women with a BMI>30 to engage in safe and effective exercise in their own home.