Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Friday, 29 May 2009

Exercise in Pregnancy: New Studies

I have been reviewing recent studies about exercise in pregnancy because I am (hopefully) going to be working on a large research study involving pregnant women and exercise (more details on that at the end of the post).

I ran across two interesting finds:

In a large study of 90,000 births published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, it was found that any form of exercise during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm birth. This was based on an extensive questionnaire given to pregnant women about their exercise habits. Even one hour a week of cardiovascular exercise was enough to decrease the risk of preterm birth almost 25% compared to sedentary women. And women who continued to exercise greater than 5 hours a week through their pregnancy continued to have a decreased risk (so fear not, crazy runners like me!). Not surprisingly, horsebackriding does not reduce the risk of preterm birth (and this finding makes the study even more valid in my opinion).

Juhl et al. Am J Eipdemio 2008;167:859-866

Next, a team of researchers form Kansas City University has found that aerobic exercise during pregnancy improves fetal heart health and nervous system development. This is still preliminary non-published data announced at the American Physiological Society conference in New York last month. I unfortunately do not have the details of the methods, but "moderate intenstiy" exercising pregnant women were compared with sedentary women. (more details to follow)

So, yes, I am hopefully going to be involved in a large study here in Denmark looking at many lifestyle factors in pregnancy (though I will be looking primarily at exercise) and birth outcomes, including cognitive development in children and development of asthma. This is along side of my PhD project, so I hope there is time!

We're moving into some extremely cheap hospital housing today and tomorrow, so I have to get working. I will post some pictures of our new home soon.

Running Song of the Day: Crush on You by Brakesbrakesbrakes


Danni said...

You're moving out of your cute apartment? Cheap is good! If I ever decide to get pregnant I'll be in your study. That means I have to come to Denmark, right? ;)

Kel said...

Will the study just look at aerobic exercise or will it also include strength training? Wondering about the parameters....

I'm looking forward to your findings either way :)

Sounds like research that is long overdue!

Marathon Princess said...

Sounds like a great and much needed study, can't wait to see what you find. The more research to back up exercise during pregnancy the better for those of us who already belive that there are benefits.

olga said...

Hey, I know you're good in researching stuff. Anything out there about hitting menopause and endurance events? There was a blurb on the ultra list mentioning it. Usually, it says "women with age slow down and are less endured", but that "usually" happens after women are past 50, so it is hard to find correlation whether they "age" or menopause slows them down (hormones are different on a panel). I am interested to know if they are studies for strictly menopause - not "when athletes hit it because they exercise", but one they do - what happens? Because occasionally it happens before 50, ya know:)

SteveQ said...

I'm expecting a commentary soon about the new standards for weight gain during pregnancy set by the Institute for Medicine (which institute, suspiciously, I'd never heard of before).

"Moab" by Conor Oberst is my new favorite running song.

sea legs girl said...

There might be a small amount of selection bias in that :).

Great question. I'm just proposing the questions now, but I think we'll also look at strength training.

Yes, exactly. More and more benefits are being found, but still the general public is incredulous. In the big study I mentioned, only 1/3 of the participants excercised at all!

Really interesting question. I do not know anything about that subject, but if I learn anything, I'll send it your way.

Steve Q,
I'd be disappointed if no one challenged the things I write one here. I didn't really know about the IOM before a few months ago. It is part of the National Academy which includes these four organizations--the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. I'm at least convinced they are reputable.
Thanks for the song rec!

Anonymous said...

I think it would also be interesting to study exercise AFTER pregnancy. Now that I am only days from the big push, I am getting a little annoyed by my physician's "wait 6 weeks" stance and all the scare talk about hemorrhage. I know you and many other fit women blogged about starting exercise as little as 10 days after a normal delivery (as did Paula Radcliffe, of course!). I wonder how many athletes actually wait that long, and if it is really necessary? Is the 6-week recommendation evidence-based, or is it just anecdotal, like the now-defunct 140 bpm heart rate guideline for pregnancy?