Exercising for two

Unborn children are not passive passengers in their mother’s womb; rather, they may be actively joining in their mother’s physical exercise, with the fetal cardiac system also growing stronger as a result.

Unborn children are not passive passengers in their mother’s womb; rather, they may be actively joining in their mother’s physical exercise, with the fetal cardiac system also growing stronger as a result.

We already knew that unborn babies’ hearts accelerate when the mother is exercising, but a new study suggests that exercising during pregnancy offers clearly measurable benefits for infants and that these benefits persist after birth.

In order to come to these conclusions, researchers met three times with 61 pregnant women between the ages of 20 and 35, to measure their babies’ cardiac health. About half of the women exercised at least three times a week (jogging, power-walking or other aerobic exercise), while the other half were considered normally active but did not engage in formal exercise.

Regular exercise slows the resting heart rate and increases the variations in heartbeat rhythm. These are considered indicators of a strong and effective heart. During this study, the researchers found that babies whose mothers had exercised regularly had lower heart rates and greater heart-rate variability than those whose mothers were less active. This effect was still measurable four weeks after birth and was stronger in women who had exercised more. Exercise during pregnancy therefore appears to have very tangible benefits for a newborn child’s heart.

While further research is required to confirm these findings, these results provide an additional argument to encourage mothers-to-be to remain active: their efforts will not lead to one, but two healthy hearts!

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