Experts often tout the benefits of regular exercise for healthy, active women during pregnancy. But what happens to the fetus during physical activity? A pilot study in The FASEB Journal (2008; 22 , 3), published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, has found that women aren’t the only ones to benefit from a workout.
The small study followed six pregnant women through gestational weeks 28, 32 and 36 and sought to determine whether fetuses exposed to exercise reaped any benefits from exercise. The women were split equally into an exercise group and a nonexercise control group. The exercise group performed moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes three times per week.
“As we anticipated, we have found significantly decreased fetal heart rates in exercise-exposed fetuses in the same activity state and at the same gestational age compared to non-exercise-exposed fetuses,” stated the authors. “These results imply an exciting potential benefit of maternal exercise on fetal cardiac autonomic nervous system.”The authors said they planned to continue their study, recruiting more pregnant women, since further research on a larger sample size would be required to fully understand the effects of prenatal exercise on the fetus.