Fetal training regimens


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


Over the last few years, there have been a bunch of articles with titles like “Marathon moms raise the post-natal bar,” charting changing attitudes about exercise during pregnancy. In general, the information provided is anecdotal — after all, there are understandly strict limits on what regimens you can inflict on pregnant women in the name of science. So it’s interesting to see this study, presented by researchers from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society.

The researchers were aiming to see whether maternal exercise improves the cardiovascular health of the fetus, with the “exercise” group performing moderate intensity aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times per week. Sure enough, fetal heart rate was lower in the exercise group. Interestingly, the researchers also suggest that maternal exercise could help the development of the autonomic nervous system. This part is less clear to me — but perhaps it’s a topic that’s worth digging into a little more deeply. Certainly, it’s encouraging to see some hard data emerging in a very hard-to-study area.