Moms-to-be who exercise help strengthen child’s heart health after birth

Washington: A study on the benefits of exercising while pregnant has found that moms-to-be, who do so, help their children to have healthy hearts after birth.

When it was reported a couple of years back that exercising strengthens a fetus’ heart control, many pregnant women took heed and hit the ground running, literally.

Some signed up for prenatal yoga classes, while others found new ways to incorporate low-impact aerobic activities into their daily lives.

Linda E. May, an exercise physiologist and anatomist at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, has been heading up a series of studies on fetal heart development for the past four years.

“It is my hope that these findings will show that efforts focused on improving health need to start during pregnancy rather than in childhood,” she said.

“Most of the focus today is on school-age children, but interventions should be focused long before that,” she stated.

A 2008 pilot study conducted by May and her collaborators at KCUMB and the Kansas City University of Medicine found that pregnant women who exercised at least 30 minutes three times a week had fetuses with lower heart rates – a sign of heart health – during the final weeks of development.

Now the team has revealed that the fetuses’ improved cardiovascular heart control is maintained one month after pregnancy, which indicates that mothers’ efforts to stay active have lasting effects.

May’s research team’s latest investigation involved 61 moms-to-be and monitored maternal-fetal and infant heart function four times over the course of the study.

“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,” May said.

“Not only did the mothers’ exercise help maintain and improve their own health, but it set their babies up for a healthier start,” she added.

The study results are to be presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2011 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.


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