Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Exercising for Two: Workout Helps Fetus

Moderate Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby’s Heart
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 8, 2008 -- Exercising during pregnancy may not only benefit mom, it may also get baby off to a healthier start.

A new study shows that pregnant women who exercised for at least 30 minutes three times a week had fetuses with lower heart rates during the final weeks of development.

Although it was a small, preliminary study, researchers say the results build on previous research showing that women benefit from exercise during pregnancy.

"This study suggests that a mother who exercises may not only be imparting health benefits to her own heart, but to her developing baby's heart as well," researcher Linda May of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) in Kansas City, Mo., says in a news release.

"As a result of this pilot study, we plan to continue the study to include more pregnant women."

Pregnancy and Exercise

In the study, presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2008 conference, researchers monitored fetal heart rate and variability in a group of 10 pregnant women every four weeks from 24 weeks gestation until full term.

Half of the women reported that they engaged in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week, and the other half did not exercise.

Six of the 10 women completed the study. The results showed that there were lower heart rates among fetuses of the three mothers who exercised during pregnancy. Fetal heart rates among non-exercisers were higher regardless of the fetal activity or gestational age.

These differences in fetal heart rates were statistically significant at each stage. Differences in long-term heart rate variability were also statistically significant at 32 weeks. The researchers plan to continue the study with more women to confirm their preliminary findings.

Researchers say the study suggests that exercise during pregnancy can have a beneficial effect on fetal cardiac programming by reducing fetal heart rate and increasing heart rate variability, essentially training the developing heart to work more efficiently.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

Woman smiling as she reads pregnancy test
Slideshow
pregnant woman with salad
Quiz
 
pregnancy am i pregnant
Article
babyapp
NEW
 

slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 

pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video