Effects of Aerobic Exercise during Pregnancy on 1-Month Infant Neuromotor Skills

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Aug;51(8):1671-1676. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001958.


Purpose: To determine the effects of exercise during pregnancy on the neuromotor development of 1-month-old offspring. We hypothesized that aerobic exercise during pregnancy would be associated with higher neuromotor scores in infants at 1 month of age, based on standard pediatric assessment of neuromotor skills.

Methods: Seventy-one healthy, pregnant women between 18 and 35 yr were randomly assigned to either aerobic exercise intervention or no exercise (control) group. Women in the exercise group performed 50 min of moderate-intensity, supervised aerobic exercise, three times per week; those in control group maintained usual activity. Neuromotor skills were measured at 1 month of age using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Edition (PDMS-2). Unpaired t-tests were used to compare infants' PDMS-2 subtest percentiles, Gross Motor Quotients, and Gross Motor Quotient percentile between groups.

Results: Infants of women in the exercise group had higher PDMS-2 scores on four of the five variables analyzed relative to infants of nonexercisers. Female infants tended to have improved scores relative to male infants of controls; this difference was attenuated in infants of exercisers.

Conclusions: Exercise during pregnancy can positively influence developing systems allowing for improved neuromotor development, thus leading to infants who are more adept at movement, and presumably more likely to be active. Because physical activity is a modifiable risk factor of childhood obesity, these findings suggest that exercise during pregnancy may potentially reduce childhood risk of obesity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult