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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Aug;51(8):1671-1676. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001958.

Effects of Aerobic Exercise during Pregnancy on 1-Month Infant Neuromotor Skills.

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Department of Physical Therapy, College of Allied Health Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
Department of Foundational Sciences and Research, School of Dental Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
Department of Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.



To determine the effects of exercise during pregnancy on the neuromotor development of 1-month-old offspring. We hypothesized that aerobic exercise during pregnancy would be associated with higher neuromotor scores in infants at 1 month of age, based on standard pediatric assessment of neuromotor skills.


Seventy-one healthy, pregnant women between 18 and 35 yr were randomly assigned to either aerobic exercise intervention or no exercise (control) group. Women in the exercise group performed 50 min of moderate-intensity, supervised aerobic exercise, three times per week; those in control group maintained usual activity. Neuromotor skills were measured at 1 month of age using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Edition (PDMS-2). Unpaired t-tests were used to compare infants' PDMS-2 subtest percentiles, Gross Motor Quotients, and Gross Motor Quotient percentile between groups.


Infants of women in the exercise group had higher PDMS-2 scores on four of the five variables analyzed relative to infants of nonexercisers. Female infants tended to have improved scores relative to male infants of controls; this difference was attenuated in infants of exercisers.


Exercise during pregnancy can positively influence developing systems allowing for improved neuromotor development, thus leading to infants who are more adept at movement, and presumably more likely to be active. Because physical activity is a modifiable risk factor of childhood obesity, these findings suggest that exercise during pregnancy may potentially reduce childhood risk of obesity.

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