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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1990 Mar;68(3):1173-6.

Effect of maternal weight gain during pregnancy on exercise performance.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women and Infants Hospital, Providence 02905.


We examined the effect of maternal weight gain during pregnancy on exercise performance. Ten women performed submaximal cycle (up to 60 W) and treadmill (4 km/h, up to 10% grade) exercise tests at 34 +/- 1.5 (SD) wk gestation and 7.6 +/- 1.7 wk postpartum. Postpartum subjects wearing weighted belts designed to equal their body weight during the antepartum tests performed two additional treadmill tests. Absolute O2 uptake (VO2) at the same work load was higher during pregnancy than postpartum during cycle (1.04 +/- 0.08 vs. 0.95 +/- 0.09 l/min, P = 0.014), treadmill (1.45 +/- 0.19 vs. 1.27 +/- 0.20 l/min, P = 0.0002), and weighted treadmill (1.45 +/ 0.19 vs. 1.36 +/- 0.20 l/min, P = 0.04) exercise. None of these differences remained, however, when VO2 was expressed per kilogram of body weight. Maximal VO2 (VO2max) estimated from the individual heart rate-VO2 curves was the same during and after pregnancy during cycling (1.96 +/- 0.37 to 1.98 +/- 0.39 l/min), whereas estimated VO2max increased postpartum during treadmill (2.04 +/- 0.38 to 2.21 +/- 0.36 l/min, P = 0.03) and weighted treadmill (2.04 +/- 0.38 to 2.19 +/- 0.38 l/min, P = 0.03) exercise. We conclude that increased body weight during pregnancy compared with the postpartum period accounts for 75% of the increased VO2 during submaximal weight-bearing exertion in pregnancy and contributes to reduced exercise capacity. The postpartum increase in estimated VO2max during weight-bearing exercise is the result of consistently higher antepartum heart rates during all submaximal work loads.

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