This study aimed to examine the influence of prenatal exercise on maternal cardiorespiratory health and fitness during pregnancy.
Online databases were searched up to February 25, 2019. Studies of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were eligible, which contained information on the relevant population (pregnant women), intervention (subjective or objective measures of frequency, intensity, duration, volume, or type of exercise), comparator (no exercise intervention), and outcomes (maternal cardiorespiratory fitness, including V˙O2max, submaximal V˙O2, V˙O2 at anaerobic threshold, and cardiorespiratory health, including resting heart rate, and resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures during pregnancy).
From 2699 unique citations, 26 RCTs (N = 2292 women) were included. Of these, one study reported measured V˙O2max, seven reported predicted V˙O2max, three reported submaximal V˙O2, and two studies reported VO2AT. “Low”- to “high”-certainty evidence revealed that exercise was associated with improved predicted/measured V˙O2max (5 RCTs, n = 430; mean difference [MD], 2.77 mL·kg−1·min−1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.32 to 5.21 mL·kg−1·min−1; I2 = 69%), reduced resting heart rate (9 RCTs, n = 637; MD, −1.71 bpm; 95% CI, −3.24 to −0.19 bpm; I2 = 13%), resting systolic blood pressure (16 RCTs, n = 1672; MD, −2.11 mm Hg; 95% CI, −3.71 to −0.51 mm Hg; I2 = 69%), and diastolic blood pressure (15 RCTs, n = 1624; MD, −1.77 mm Hg; 95% CI, −2.90 to −0.64 mm Hg; I2 = 60%).
Prenatal exercise interventions improve maternal predicted/measured V˙O2max and reduce resting heart rate and blood pressure. This review highlights the need for additional high-quality studies of cardiorespiratory fitness (namely, V˙O2max and V˙O2 peak) in pregnancy.
PROSPERO registration number: CRD42019131249.