Pregnant Moms Who Exercise Help Baby's Heart, Too, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Diet & Fitness, Pregnancy Health, Health, Research Reveals

Pregnant moms who exercise deliver healthier babies, a new study finds. Credit: Getty Images

Not too long ago, it was considered healthy for pregnant moms to take a break from the gym and send their spouses out in the middle of the night for Taco Bell runs. Being with child was a great excuse to slouch on the couch and scarf up chips, ice cream or whatever you had a hankering for -- guilt-free.

But don't stash the Lululemons and Asics away in the closet just yet. A new study suggests pregnant moms who exercise will deliver healthier babies, Time magazine reports.

Researchers at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences say exercise-exposed fetuses have improved cardiovascular activity throughout the nine months in utero, according to a university release. The findings were presented at the American Physiological Society Conference.

Every four weeks throughout the pregnancies of the women studied, the researchers measured the heart rate of 66 moms and their babies from 24 weeks to term, along with breathing, body and mouth movements of moms and babies.The women were grouped according to the frequency, intensity and length of exercise and the physical activity they engaged in from moderate to intense aerobic activity. They exercised 30 minutes per session, three times a week, according to the release.

"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," Linda May, exercise physiologist and anatomist at Kansas City University and co-author of the study, says in the release.

At 32 weeks, researchers started to see changes in heart response in the fetuses of the exercising moms. By 36 weeks, they noted what May calls a "big, significant change" -- a lower heart rate and increased heart rate variability, according to the release.

"If she just does a little bit, it will have benefit," May tells Time. "If she does more, it will help more. It's similar to the exercise response of an adult. It's very cool."

What's more, the results continued to keep the babies' hearts pumped up after birth, she tells the magazine. Some women dropped out of the research due to attrition, but 43 moms brought their babies back when they were 1 month old. Their hearts still showed that pumped-up quality.

"It suggests the result we saw was real, and that it is giving this baby a healthier heart," May tells Time.

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