Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part V: Pregnancy

In this last post of the Women’s Health and Fitness Series, we delve into the mother of all topics: pregnancy. As one of the few health topics that truly only affects women, pregnancy is highly stressful on for women’s bodies, but amazingly, they know exactly how to respond to this event. In addition, many of the issues previously raised in the series continue to carry weight when discussing pregnancy.

One aspect of pregnancy that carries a lot of weight is exactly that: the amount of weight a pregnant woman gains. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.  A PLOS ONE study published in July 2012 investigates the link between healthy weight during pregnancy and the associated risks when the term “eating for two” is taken too liberally. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.

The authors, from the University of Ulster in Ireland, wanted to see if regimented diet and physical activity was an efficient intervention to reduce excess gestational weight gain (GWG). They reviewed 5 studies that had examined a total of 971 pregnant women with a mean BMI of 26. They found that setting goals through 1-on-1 diet and lifestyle counseling was the most successful strategy to help women gain appropriate amounts of weight during pregnancy. The researchers also note that while weight is a primary concern, and behavior modification is an effective way to address the problem, more research is required “to target women’s psychological needs as well as their emotional and physical needs”.

Pregnancy is a unique experience for the female gender, as well as for each individual woman.  Much like we’ve discussed throughout the series, health incorporates a balance of many factors, like nutrition, weight, emotional well-being, and should be tailored to each person.

With that, happy Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and we hope this month’s series has been informative and inspirational!

Image Credit: makelessnoise on Flickr CC-by license

Citation: Brown MJ, Sinclair M, Liddle D, Hill AJ, Madden E, et al. (2012) A Systematic Review Investigating Healthy Lifestyle Interventions Incorporating Goal Setting Strategies for Preventing Excess Gestational Weight Gain. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39503. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039503

 

 

 

 

Announcing: Women’s Health and Fitness Series

This month, in honor of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day on September 26th, we’ll be exploring upcoming and previously published work in PLOS ONE surrounding this topic. The breadth of this subject is wide and, sure, we could probably start a whole new blog just to discuss PLOS ONE articles about women’s health, but instead we’ve created a bite-sized series that will highlight a few important issues, including cardiovascular health, anorexia, pregnancy, and ovarian cancer.

We know that physical fitness has significant repercussions for overall physical and mental well-being, and the results of a clinical trial  published in PLOS ONE earlier this year further underscore how physical activity relates to other health issues. The study, led by researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana showed that for overweight women, 6 months of aerobic exercise reduced total counts of white blood cells and neutrophils, two markers commonly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and death.

The researchers monitored 390 participants, who alternated between sessions of walking on a treadmill and riding a recumbent bike. One group acted as a control, and the other three groups were prescribed specific exercise “dosages.” The study showed that any increase in exercise improved the participants’ white blood cell and neutrophil counts, and that the effects were generally dose-dependent, with increased exercise resulting in increased health benefit returns.

The study was part of a broader trial called “The Dose-Response to Exercise in Women Aged 45–75 yr” (DREW) study. The most compelling part of this research was that the doses of exercise were strictly monitored in a lab, which led to adherence by the subjects and produced high-quality results.

PLoS ONE 7(2): e31319. Table 2: Mean (95%CI) change in anthropometric and fitness data and total WBC and WBC subfraction counts after 6 months of intervention.

Lack of aerobic exercise may also contribute to the ever-increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes found in Americans. The CDC estimates that 26 million Americans have diabetes, half of them women, and it is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes, which is developed by adults late in life and is often a result of obesity and other environmental factors. (Type 1 is more commonly found in children born without the ability to produce insulin.)

There may also be a correlation between socioeconomic status and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, as explored in a clinical trial  published in December 2011. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston observed 23,992 women between February 1993 and March 2007 and found that during this period, 1,262 women developed Type 2 diabetes. Lower socioeconomic status was associated with increased diabetes risk in these women, and this correlation was largely explained by behavior, particularly increased weight.

These two studies only offer a small sample of the extensive research published in this field, both in PLOS ONE and elsewhere, but nonetheless provide compelling evidence that it’s important to get out there and get active.  I look forward to sharing more examples over the next month, so stay tuned!

Citation: Johannsen NM, Swift DL, Johnson WD, Dixit VD, Earnest CP, et al. (2012) Effect of Different Doses of Aerobic Exercise on Total White Blood Cell (WBC) and WBC Subfraction Number in Postmenopausal Women: Results from DREW. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31319. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031319

Citation: Lee TC, Glynn RJ, Peña JM, Paynter NP, Conen D, et al. (2011) Socioeconomic Status and Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Data from the Women’s Health Study. PLoS ONE 6(12): e27670. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027670

Photo Credit: Lululemonathletica w/CC-by License