Circulating long-chain acylcarnitine concentrations are not affected by exercise training in pregnant women with obesity

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2022 Feb 1;132(2):470-476. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00712.2021. Epub 2022 Jan 6.


The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of exercise during pregnancy in sedentary women with obesity on longitudinal changes in long-chain acylcarnitine (LC-AC) concentrations. We hypothesized that exercise training would significantly decrease circulating LC-ACs throughout gestation compared with a nonexercise control group. Pregnant women with obesity considered otherwise healthy [n = 80, means ± SD; body mass index (BMI): 36.9 ± 5.7 kg/m2] were randomized into an exercise (n = 40, aerobic/resistance 3 times/wk, ∼13th gestation week until birth) or a nonexercise control (n = 40) group. At gestation week 12.2 ± 0.5 and 36.0 ± 0.4, a submaximal exercise test was conducted, and indirect calorimetry was used to measure relative resting energy expenditure (REE), as well as respiratory exchange ratio (RER) at rest. Fasting blood samples were collected and analyzed for LC-AC concentrations. Fitness improved with prenatal exercise training; however, exercise training did not affect circulating LC-AC. When groups were collapsed, LC-ACs decreased during gestation (combined groups, P < 0.001), whereas REE (kcal/kg/day, P = 0.008) increased. However, average REE relative to fat-free mass (FFM) (kcal/kg FFM/day) and RER did not change. There was an inverse relationship between the change in RER and all LC-ACs (except C18:2) throughout gestation (C14: r = -0.26, P = 0.04; C16: r = -0.27, P = 0.03; C18:1: r = -0.28, P = 0.02). In summary, a moderate-intensity exercise intervention during pregnancy in women with obesity did not alter LC-ACs concentrations versus control, indicating that the balance between long-chain fatty acid availability and oxidation neither improved nor worsened with an exercise intervention.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This research showed that a moderate-intensity prenatal exercise program, consisting of aerobic and resistance training, did not negatively impact normal alterations in substrate supply and demand for the mother and the offspring throughout gestation. Findings provide support for metabolic safety of exercise during pregnancy.

Keywords: gestation; long-chain fatty acids; physical activity; resting energy expenditure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women*


  • acylcarnitine
  • Carnitine