It seems that when it comes to physical exercise and its benefits to the heart, it’s never too early to start. The study Effects of Maternal Exercise on the Fetal Heart shows that exercise during pregnancy can already have a lasting and beneficial effect not only on the mother’s heart but on that of the unborn child as well.
Kansas researchers studied 10 pregnant women, 5 of whom routinely performed exercise and 5 did not. Heart rates of the mothers and the fetuses were recorded using magnetocardiography (MCG) starting on the 24th week of pregnancy till full term.
“MCG is a safe, non-invasive method to record the magnetic field surrounding the electrical currents generated by the fetal heart and nervous system. In addition to measures of heart rate and variability, the MCG allows for the study of the cardiac waveforms to measure of cardiac time intervals.”
Aside from heart rates, movements of the fetus such as breathing, body and mouth movements were also recorded. The recording was done every 4 weeks.
The results show that the heart rates of fetuses of mothers who exercised regularly were significantly lower than fetuses of mothers who did not perform any exercise. It seems that exercise by the mother trains the baby’s heart to function more efficiently.
“This study suggests that a mother who exercises may not only be imparting health benefits to her own heart, but to her developing baby’s heart as well. As a result of this pilot study, we plan to continue the study to include more pregnant women.”, the researchers concluded.
There are many different ways that expecting mothers can exercise. Here are some examples:
- Walking. Walking is something everyone can do everyday, from gentle strolls to Nordic walking.
- Aqua gymnastics or aqua aerobics. I did this exercise while pregnant. It’s not only good for your health, it is also relaxing.
- Swimming. Aqua aerobics coupled with swimming is the way go.
- Prenatal Yoga. These are special yoga classes customized for mothers-to-be.
- Pilates. Pilates are said to tone your back, pelvic and abdominal muscles to help your body carry the heavy load as well as pushing during a natural delivery.
However, it is most important that you consult your obstetrician before launching on an exercise regime during pregnancy. Remember, exercise may be good for your and for your baby but strenuous physical exercise can be risky, even dangerous.