A new academic study conducted with the Whoop wearable suggests continued exercising during pregnancy offers cardiovascular benefits. The research also shows resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate variability (HRV) can be utilised to help better understand pregnancy timelines.
The scientific study was conducted by researchers at West Virginia University School of Medicine with a summary of results made available on the Whoop website. This is the currently under peer review.
RHR and HRV offer useful info for pregnant women
Some three dozen women were recruited for the study between the ages of 18 and 35. All were equipped with the popular fitness tracker. Now on generation 4, Whoop is often used by professional athletes due to its ability to capture a wealth of physiological data, particularly recovery stats.
During the period under observation which lasted between March of 2019 and June of 2021, 18 of the women became pregnant and gave birth. Researchers noticed a rise in RHR and fall in HRV soon after conception and before a woman’s first missed period. So this method could potentially be used as a supplementary indicator of pregnancy. This trend where RHR rose and HRV fell continued into the Third Trimester.
However, research noticed something that has never been noticed before. As shown in the charts, this trend reversed in seven weeks before conception – RHR fell sharply while HRV increased. This implies that this type of data could serve to estimate remaining pregnancy duration.
Keep exercising while pregnant
What’s more, data from the study suggests that women should stay active not just before and after, but also during pregnancy. This was shown to have a multitude of cardiovascular benefits. It was not so much the intensity that was important, but duration.
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The activity level of the women under observation fell during pregnancy, from 28 minutes daily to 14 minutes. However, the women who were able to stay more active had better HRV and RHR as compared to those who were less active. The study also shows that women can make fitness gains during pregnancy as illustrated by improved HRV compared to beforehand.
Researchers say that this is contrary to traditional recommendation for pregnant women to only engage in low intensity cardiovascular activity. Some doctors even suggest their heart rate should not go above 140 beats per minute. This study illustrates that women can continue participating in and enjoying activities they engaged in prior to pregnancy.
“Qualitative evidence suggests strong cultural expectations that women should ‘sit down and slow down’ during pregnancy,” Dr. Shon Rowan, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at WVU who led the study said.
“The guidelines for pregnant women around exercise have changed, but not in a wide-scale or well-known way. Contrary to past recommendations, this study found that any type of activity during pregnancy is beneficial. This isn’t necessarily driven by intensity, but duration.”
This study is part of Whoop’s effort to use its technology to improve research on female physiology. The company has recently introduced a menstrual cycle coaching feature.
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