Health & Fitness

Pregnancy exercise for healthy lung of baby

PREGNANCY

Summary

  • During pregnancy, most women are careful about what they consume or activities they engage in to avoid harming the unborn.
  • Even though exercises are considered beneficial during this time, many women refrain from sustained physical activity throughout the pregnancy for fear of hurting the baby.
  • Doctors note that exercises are fine, so long as they carry little risk of injury for the pregnant women.
  • Swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor) make the list.

During pregnancy, most women are careful about what they consume or activities they engage in to avoid harming the unborn.

Even though exercises are considered beneficial during this time, many women refrain from sustained physical activity throughout the pregnancy for fear of hurting the baby.

Doctors note that exercises are fine, so long as they carry little risk of injury for the pregnant women. Swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor) make the list.

For women, exercises during pregnancy can help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling that are common.

Exercises also help them to sleep better and boost their energy levels. Physical activity is also recommended to prevent excess weight gain and promote muscle tone, strength and endurance.

Aside from the mother, new studies are increasingly providing evidence that exercise benefits go beyond the mother to her unborn baby.

A recent study presented at the 2021 European Respiratory Society International Congress indicated that pregnancy exercise improves the lung health of unborn babies, hence reducing their risk of suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma.

The study builds on others that have shown that individuals with low lung function in infancy have a higher risk of asthma, other obstructive lung diseases leading to improper functioning of lungs later.

“Therefore, exploring factors that can be associated with lung function in infants is important. If being physically active during pregnancy could reduce the risk of impaired infant lung function, it would be a simple, low-cost way to improve the respiratory health of the offspring,” noted Hrefna Gudmundsdottir, a paediatrician and one of the authors of the study, from the University of Oslo.

During the study, the researchers assessed data from 814 healthy babies born in Oslo and Stockholm between December 2014 and October 2016.

The women were asked to complete questionnaires at around 18 and 34 weeks of pregnancy about their health, lifestyle, socioeconomic factors and nutrition.

During this period, they reported how often they exercised, for how long and at what intensity. Based on their responses, they were classified as either inactive, fairly active or very active.

Thereafter, lung function measurements were performed when the babies were about three months old. The assessment was done by measuring normal breathing in calm, awake infants.

Compared to babies of active mothers, the results of the study revealed that children of inactive mothers were more likely to have low lung function (with a measurement of less than 0.25 tPTEF/tE)

“In our study, we found that babies born to inactive mothers were more likely to be in the group with the lowest lung function compared to babies born to active mothers,” stated Dr Gudmundsdottir.

“We observed a trend that adds to the importance of advising women of child-bearing age and pregnant women about physical activity. However, there may be factors that affect both maternal physical activity and lung function in offspring that we have not accounted for and could affect the results. So, more research is needed.”

The researchers will be monitoring the babies as they grow to see how lung function progresses and how it relates to the development of respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

“We also hope to explore associations between maternal physical activity and asthma, allergies and other non-communicable diseases in the future,” she concluded.

FASCINATING HINT

Jonathan Grigg, a professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University of London said: “There is much that we know already about the importance of expectant mothers staying physically fit and active. But far less is known about the impact of this on their babies. This study offers a fascinating hint that increased physical activity of mothers is associated with better lung function in their babies and, therefore, possibly their health in later life.”

“More research is needed to confirm this link, but it is important that women feel supported by their healthcare providers to be active in a way that is comfortable and accessible to them.”