Creation and implementation of a pilot prenatal fitness program
Using information available in the medical and sports medicine literature, a pilot program of exercise for pregnant women was designed for implementation at the local YMCA. The exercises consisted of 1) calisthenics and stretching exercises performed for 20 to 30 minutes and 2) a similar time period of aerobic exercise at no more than 70 percent predicted maximum pulse. Each of these was conducted formally three times weekly with participants urged to perform the exercises on their own at additional times. A group of nine women was followed from 14-16 weeks gestation through delivery and for 6 weeks postpartum and was matched with a group of four nonexercising controls. Both groups were tested by predicted maximum oxygen uptake during bicycle ergometer testing. To date, 37 women have participated and delivered with no untoward side effects in either mothers or offspring. In addition, considerable subjective benefits were stated by participants. Objective quantification of these benefits requires greater numbers of participants and controls, a longer period of time (estimate 3 years) to complete data collection, and more vigorous data collection in terms of reproducibility and meeting the schedule desired.