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Exercise OK for at-risk pregnant women

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GREENVILLE, N.C., Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. study of poor, urban African-American women found exercise did not increase or decrease the risk of low birth weight or preterm birth.

"There is not much information about exercise participation in this population," said Suezanne Orr of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. "Most of the research has been on middle-aged white women."

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The study, published in Ethnicity and Disease, looked at 922 low-income African-American women over the age of 18 receiving prenatal care at five Baltimore clinics between 1993 and 1995.

Almost 30 percent reported having a chronic illness, such as diabetes or hypertension, nearly 20 percent had poor maternal weight gain during pregnancy, and 32 percent had a previous pregnancy with a poor outcome.

During pregnancy, 56 percent of the women reported participating in non-strenuous exercise, such as gardening or walking, while 2 percent said they participated only in strenuous exercise, such as running or biking, while 6 percent participated in both levels of exercise. Almost 36 percent of the women got no exercise at all.

About 12 percent of the women had babies with low birth weight and 13.7 percent had babies who were born prematurely; however, researchers found no association with exercise and these outcomes.

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