Cardiovascular responses of pregnant women during aerobic exercise in water: a longitudinal study

Int J Sports Med. 1988 Dec;9(6):443-7. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1025048.


To determine the effects of pregnancy on the cardiovascular responses to immersion and exercise in water, 12 women completed 20 min of immersion and 20 min of bicycle ergometry at 60% predicted VO2max in 30 degrees C water during their 15th, 25th, and 35th week of pregnancy as well as 8-10 weeks post partum. Immersion lowered the resting heart rate approximately 8 bts/min (P less than 0.05). Exercise in water also resulted in a lower heart rate as compared with the same level of exercise on land (132 +/- 4 vs 149 +/- 6 bts/min; P less than 0.05). Both the rest and exercise heart rate responses were independent of duration of pregnancy or pregnancy status. Post partum exercise cardiac output averaged 9.9 +/- 0.4 l/min, significantly lower (P less than 0.05) than the 15th (12.7 +/- 0.5), 25th (14.7 +/- 0.5), or 35th week (15.1 +/- 0.7 l/min). Total peripheral resistance was greatest (P less than 0.05) post partum (657 +/- 29 dyn.s/cm5) compared with either the 15th (515 +/- 27), 25th (407 +/- 18), or 35th week (450 +/- 23). The results indicate that exercise in water lowers the heart rate compared with land exercise at the same metabolic rate. The combined effect of exercise, water, and pregnancy may elevate the cardiac output more than expected on land, but the same general pattern of exercise response will be evident throughout the duration of pregnancy. The results further suggest that water alters the heart rate and blood pressure responses such that land-derived exercise target heart rates should not be used to prescribe exercise intensity in water.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiac Output
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Immersion
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Vascular Resistance