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‘Womb workouts’ could give babies healthier hearts


Babies whose mothers do aerobic exercise during pregnancy may have healthier hearts, according to researchers at Kansas University, US. The study examined the effects of aerobic exercise on


the developing foetal heart. Magnetocardiograms, which measure the foetal heart rate through sensors placed on the skin, were used on 61 healthy, pregnant women aged 21 to 35. Half of the women exercised and half did not. Results showed substantial differences in foetal heart


rate between the two groups. At 36 weeks, the heart rate when the foetus was active was 136 beats per minute in the exercise group and 148 in the control group. The researchers believe that ‘womb workouts’ have health benefi ts that continue into adulthood, lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension decades later.


Yoga: great for mum and baby


Women who practise yoga during pregnancy may have a lower risk of pre-term labour, according to research carried out in Bangalore, India. This study of 335 women, published in the Journal


of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, compared expectant mums who did yoga for an hour a day with a similar group who walked 30 minutes twice a day (standard obstetric advice). The women were followed from 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Compliance in both groups was ensured by frequent telephone calls and maintenance of an activity diary. Pre-term labour was signifi cantly lower in the yoga


group. Complications such as isolated intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) – a condition in which a foetus is unable to achieve its genetically determined potential size – and pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) with associated IUGR were also signifi cantly lower in the yoga group. There were no signifi cant adverse effects noted in the yoga group. The yoga mums also had a lower risk of high blood


Breastfeeding mums should exercise to prevent bone loss


Nutritionists at the University of North Carolina, US, found that exercise can reduce the bone loss in new mums caused by calcium lost to their babies through breastfeeding. Reduction in bone density is a common side-effect


of breastfeeding, as babies need calcium to grow and therefore deplete the mother of her own stores. But this loss increases the risk of osteoporosis in the mother. However, researchers found that weight-bearing or


aerobic exercise can help stimulate bone growth. They measured the bone density of 20 women between one and fi ve months after they’d given birth. Those who did no exercise lost about 7.5 per cent bone density in their lower spine during the study. But women who did pilates and walking or jogging three days a week lost only 4.5 per cent. They also regained their fi gures faster, even without dieting.


Yoga appears to contributes towards a baby’s healthy development


pressure, while their babies, on average, had a healthier birth weight. The researchers speculate that yoga’s benefi ts could come from increased blood fl ow to the placenta and lower levels of maternal stress hormones.


Can exercising during pregnancy prevent cot death?


Researchers at Kansas City University, US, believe that mothers who exercise during pregnancy could be improving the health of their unborn babies and even helping to prevent cot death. The study looked at 26 pregnant women between


the ages of 20 and 35. Half the group took 30 minutes’ moderate exercise – such as vigorous walking, cycling on an exercise bike or running – three times a week, while the other half took no activity. The doctors found that babies in the womb had lower heart rates and improved breathing if their mothers were physically active, and their nervous systems were more mature. They concluded that exercise could be an “early intervention” to help prevent cot death, as it helped the development of the nervous system, which is where some researchers think the causes of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) lie.


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