WVU Medicine studying how much woman can safely workout while pregnant

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 1:06 PM EST
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - West Virginia University School of Medicine is using wearable technology to study how much woman can safely workout while pregnant.

Doctors’ opinions vary widely when it comes to exercise during pregnancy because research into pregnant women’s fitness has been scarce, according to a press release from WVU Medicine.

“There are not many studies looking at exercise in pregnancy,” said Rowan, an infertility physician with WVU Medicine. “This is in large part due to Institutional Review Boards not wanting to approve studies due to risks. However, retrospective studies show exercise to be of great benefit to pregnant women.”

The device at the center of Associate Professor Shon Rowan’s study, called WHOOP, is worn on the wrist. Sixty times each second, it collects data about the wearer’s resting heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate and sleep. To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, this study is the first to use a wearable device to monitor heart rate data prior to, through and after pregnancy.

The research team provided WHOOP devices to women who were trying to conceive. The researchers have analyzed the data associated with 12 of the participants who have since delivered their babies.

So far, the preliminary results suggest that overall, women in the study were in better shape after giving birth than before they became pregnant. The data also indicates that the participants’ resting heart rates worsened as their due dates neared. But after the women gave birth, their resting heart rates quickly improved. The participants’ resting heart rates were better after they gave birth than before they got pregnant. Their resting heart rates continued to improve six weeks after delivery.

“Many female athletes are concerned about the progress or lack thereof of their fitness journey during pregnancy,” said Jenna Wallace, a WVU pediatric psychologist and member of the research team. “The data we are gathering can help obstetricians to encourage and guide their pregnant patients and also to provide peace of mind to female athletes who prioritize the well-being of their babies during this important stage of life.”

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