According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, pregnancy-induced hypertension (preeclampsia) is related to 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths around the world each year (www.preeclampsia.org). A study published in a recent issue of Hypertension in Pregnancy (2008; 27 , 113–30) states that adequate stretching may reduce the potential for developing the condition.
Authors randomly assigned 79 sedentary women previously diagnosed with preeclampsia into a walking group or a stretching group. The walkers exercised for 40 minutes 5 days per week at moderate intensity. The stretching group performed 40 minutes of stretching an average of five times per week. As the pregnancies progressed, the frequency and duration of both exercise protocols decreased. By the end of the study, 15% of those in the walking group had developed preeclampsia, compared with 3% of those in the stretching group.
“Clearly, walking does not have a harmful effect on the pregnancy,” stated lead study author SeonAe Yeo, PhD, in a press release. “But for women who are at high risk for preeclampsia, our results may suggest that stretching exercises may have a protective effect against the condition.” Information on specific stretches was not provided.