Strenuous exercise during pregnancy: Is there a limit?

Linda Szymanski, Andrew J. Satin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate fetal responses to strenuous exercise in physically active and inactive women. Study Design: Forty-five healthy women (15 who were nonexercisers, 15 who were regularly active, 15 who were highly active) underwent a peak treadmill test at 28 weeks' gestation to 32 weeks 6 days' gestation. Fetal well-being (umbilical artery Doppler indices, fetal heart tracing/rate, biophysical profile [BPP]) was evaluated before and after exercise. Uterine artery Doppler scans were also obtained. Results: Umbilical and uterine artery Doppler indices were similar among activity groups and did not change with exercise (P >.05). BPP and fetal heart tracings were reassuring in all groups. However, subgroup analyses showed transient fetal heart rate decelerations after exercise and elevated umbilical and uterine artery Doppler indices in 5 highly active women. After this, BPP and fetal heart tracings were reassuring. Conclusion: Overall fetal well-being is reassuring after short-duration, strenuous exercise in both active and inactive pregnant women. A subset of highly active women experienced transient fetal heart rate decelerations and Doppler changes immediately after exercise. Athletes may push beyond a threshold intensity at which fetal well-being may be compromised. However, potential impact on neonatal outcomes is unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179.e1-179.e6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • exercise
  • fetal well-being
  • pregnancy
  • umbilical artery Doppler measurement
  • uterine artery Doppler measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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