Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 May;48(5):896-906
INTRODUCTION: Scarce evidence exists regarding the effects of regular pregnancy exercise on maternal cardiovascular health. We aimed to study, using a randomized controlled trial design, the effects of pregnancy exercise on echocardiographic indicators of hemodynamics, cardiac remodeling, left ventricular (LV) function, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.
METHODS: Two hundred forty-one healthy pregnant women were assigned to a control (standard care) or intervention (exercise) group (initial n = 121/120). The intervention (weeks 9-11 to 38-39) included three supervised sessions per week (55-60 min, with light-moderate intensity aerobic and strength exercises).
RESULTS: The main findings were as follows: (i) the proportion of women with excessive weight gain at end pregnancy was lower in the exercise group compared with controls (18% vs 40%, P = 0.005), and (ii) there was a tendency toward lower prevalence of depression at end pregnancy in the former (P = 0.029, threshold P value set at 0.013). No significant exercise training effect was essentially found for echocardiographic variables, CVD risk factors, type/duration of labor, or newborn's outcomes (weight, height, head circumference, Apgar scores, and umbilical cord pH).
CONCLUSIONS: Light-moderate intensity supervised exercise is safe for healthy pregnant women and does not impose an additional cardiac overload beyond gestation or affect the main pregnancy outcomes. Such intervention might help decrease, at least partly, the risk of two CVD-associated conditions, excessive weight gain and depression.