Exercise may lower preeclampsia risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Physical activity during pregnancy may lower a woman's risk of preeclampsia, according to study findings presented Friday at the 22nd annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New Orleans.

Dr. Tanya Sorensen, from the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, and colleagues interviewed 201 women with preeclampsia and 383 women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy. The women were asked about the nature and extent of their physical activity during the first 5 months of pregnancy.

Women who reported engaging in regular physical activity were 35% less likely to develop preeclampsia than their less active peers, and those who participated in light to moderate activities were 24% less likely than their inactive peers.

"The greatest reduction in risk of preeclampsia occurred in women who participated in jogging, running, lap swimming and aerobic exercise," Dr. Sorensen said. "There was also a significant decrease in [risk among] women who regularly swam or cycled."

In addition, women who walked at a speed of 3 or more miles per hour, regardless of the distance, had a 33% to 41% reduced risk of preeclampsia compared with those who did not walk at all. The preeclampsia risk was inversely associated with the number of stairs climbed per day.

The investigators also found that women who reported engaging in physical activity in the year before becoming pregnant also had a reduced risk of preeclampsia.

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