Women are regularly told to exercise during pregnancy. Even if it means taking a slow walk around the block after dinner, moving is important. Early in pregnancy, fit moms are often told to continue exercising as normal. Later, as baby grows, altered exercise routines may be adopted to secure the health and safety of the unborn fetus. Pregnant women know they should be exercising during pregnancy, but often fatigue and other pregnancy symptoms get in the way. Researchers, however, are not willing to let pregnant women take the easy road. According to new research, pregnant women who exercise during pregnancy may improve the heart health of their unborn fetus – for life.

The pilot study revealed that women exercising at least 30 minutes most days of the week impacted fetal heart rates in the final weeks before pregnancy. Heart rates measured lower, a great sign that the heart is healthy and strong. Moreover, the lowered heart rate lasted at least one month after birth. The study included only 61 participants, so a larger study will be needed to support findings before the outcome is widely accepted.

There is one flaw in the research study. Women in the study completed a variety of activities, including weight lifting, yoga, jogging and power walking. It is assumed that these women were fit when they started the pregnancy. There is no mention of impact on fetal or infant heart health if an overweight or obese woman without a regular fitness program, if the pregnant woman starts a new fitness program during pregnancy.

With a large portion of the United States population being overweight, it is extremely important to emphasize exercise and healthy eating before, during and after pregnancy. Maternal weight and eating habits play a huge part in fetal and infant health.

According to Linda E. May, study author, “The system that controls heart function is known to improve with regular aerobic exercise and improved heart control function is evidence of a healthy cardiovascular system and overall health. Not only did the mothers' exercise help maintain and improve their own health, but it set their babies up for a healthier start.”

Source: Linda E. May, Kathleen Gustafson, Henry Yeh, Alan Glaros and Richard Suminski. 28 August, 2011.

New York Times