The Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy on Infant Neuromotor Skills
In 2011-2012, the prevalence of obesity in children 2-19 years was 17% in the United States, and North Carolina was ranked fifth in the nation for childhood obesity. Researchers have attempted to prevent obesity by intervening at various times in a child’s life, with limited success. Perhaps the earliest interventions to diminish the prevalence of childhood obesity would be those occurring before birth. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise during pregnancy has been shown to contribute to improved cardiovascular health in the offspring. To date research has not investigated the effects of maternal exercise on infants’ neurobehavioral status. The purpose of this study wa¬¬s to determine the effects of maternal exercise during pregnancy on the neuromotor development of offspring. We hypothesized that exercise during pregnancy would be associated with improved neuromotor scores in infants at one and six months of age, based on standard pediatric assessment of motor skills and reflexes. Eighty healthy, pregnant women between 18-35 years were recruited for this study from the Greenville, NC area. Eligible women were assigned to one of three exercise groups or to the control, non-exercise (CTRL) group. Exercise groups performed aerobic exercise, strengthening exercise, or circuit training 3 times per week under supervision, while those in CTRL group maintained usual activity and did not receive an exercise intervention. Post-delivery, neurodevelopmental exams were performed on the infants at one and six months using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Edition (PDMS-2) and the Alberta Infant Motor Scales (AIMS). Variables analyzed to determine differences between groups included: AIMS raw score: age ratio, and PDMS-2 subtest percentiles, subtest standard scores, and overall Gross Motor Quotient (GMQ) percentile. Significant between-group differences were found as infants in exercise groups had higher GMQ than that of infants in CTRL group (Exercise mean 104.7 ± 4.31 vs. CTRL mean 100 ± 4; p=0.03). The GMQ percentile scores were also significantly greater in infants in exercise groups compared to those in CTRL group (Exercise mean=62.1 ± 10.9 vs. CTRL mean=50 ± 10; p=0.03). Stationary percentile scores were significantly greater in infants in exercise groups compared to those in CTRL group (Exercise mean= 49.5 ± 16.0 vs. CTRL mean=31.3 ± 12.5; p=0.02), as were the Stationary standard scores (Exercise mean= 9.9 ± 1.3 vs. CTRL mean= 8.5 ± 1.0; p=0.03). Locomotion percentile scores were significantly greater in infants in exercise groups compared to those in CTRL group (Exercise mean= 59.1 ± 7.5 vs. CTRL mean= 50 ± 10.6; p=0.03), as were Locomotion standard scores (Exercise mean= 10.6± 1.3 vs. CTRL mean= 10 ± 0.8; p=0.04). The infants in this study appeared to benefit from maternal exercise during pregnancy. Infants with higher neurodevelopmental scores in infancy might be expected to have higher scores at later months as well, which may set them up to be “good movers” and more physically active in childhood and beyond. Furthermore, children who are physically active at an early age will likely continue to lead a physically active lifestyle into adulthood and reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
Gower, Georganna. (January 2015). The Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy on Infant Neuromotor Skills (Honors Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4783.)
Gower, Georganna. The Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy on Infant Neuromotor Skills. Honors Thesis. East Carolina University, January 2015. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4783. April 14, 2021.
Gower, Georganna, “The Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy on Infant Neuromotor Skills” (Honors Thesis., East Carolina University, January 2015).
Gower, Georganna. The Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy on Infant Neuromotor Skills [Honors Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 2015.