Objective: Our purpose was to test the null hypothesis that beginning regular, moderate-intensity exercise in early pregnancy has no effect on fetoplacental growth.
Study design: Forty-six women who did not exercise regularly were randomly assigned at 8 weeks either to no exercise (n = 24) or to weight-bearing exercise (n = 22) 3 to 5 times a week for the remainder of pregnancy. Outcome variables included antenatal placental growth rate and neonatal and placental morphometric measurements.
Results: The offspring of the exercising women were significantly heavier (corrected birth weight: 3.75 +/- 0.08 kg vs 3.49 +/- 0.07 kg) and longer (51.8 +/- 0.3 cm vs 50.6 +/- 0.3 cm) than those born to control women. The difference in birth weight was the result of an increase in both lean body mass and fat mass. In addition, midtrimester placental growth rate was faster (26 +/- 2 cm(3)/wk vs 21 +/- 1 cm(3)/wk) and morphometric indexes of placental function were greater in the exercise group. There were no significant differences in neonatal percentage body fat, head circumference, ponderal index, or maternal weight gain.
Conclusions: These data indicate that beginning a moderate regimen of weight-bearing exercise in early pregnancy enhances fetoplacental growth.