Cochrane LibraryPregnancy

Walking vs stretching in high-risk pregnancy

This study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compared the response to each activity in high-risk women who were sedentary and had experienced pre-eclampsia previously.

First, the details.

  • 79 women were randomly assigned to walking or stretching 5 times a week until the end of pregnancy.
  • The walkers exercised a little more than 30 minutes per session.
  • The stretching group engaged in stretching exercises based on a 40-minute videotape.
  • Both groups participated significantly less in their assigned activities over time.

And, the results.

  • There were no significant differences in birth outcomes.
  • Pre-eclampsia occurred in 15% of walkers vs 3% of stretchers.
  • Gestational hypertension occurred in 22% of walkers vs 40% of stretchers.
  • The average transferrin level, an antioxidant marker, was significantly higher in the stretching group vs the walkers at labor.

The bottom line?
My conclusion from the study is that it’s difficult to get sedentary pregnant women to maintain a fairly rigorous regimen of walking or exercise over time.

The authors concluded, “Regular stretching exercises may promote endogenous antioxidants among women at risk for pre-eclampsia.”

Oxidative stress has been proposed as a key factor in the development of pre-eclampsia. Stretching might increase transferring levels, but a recent Cochrane review concluded the evidence does “not support routine antioxidant supplementation during pregnancy to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and other serious complications in pregnancy.” Of course, supplementation is not necessarily the same as stretching.

5/30/08 22:03 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.