Moms-to-Be: Water Aerobics Helps Low-Back Pain

Healthnotes Newswire (September 28, 2006)—Low-back pain and pelvic pain are common complaints of pregnancy and cause many otherwise healthy pregnant women to take sick leave from work. New research shows that water aerobics beats land-based aerobics in reducing sick leave caused by pregnancy-related low-back pain.

“Moderate exercise is recommended at least three times a week during pregnancy to enhance maternal fitness and well-being,” said Aina B. Granath, RN, RM, a nurse-midwife at the Research and Development Unit, Primary Health Care in Mölndal, Sweden, and lead author of the study. “Our interventions focused on strength, flexibility, and fitness, and included warming up, stretching, and relaxation.”

The clinical trial included 398 healthy pregnant women who were randomly assigned to either a land-based physical exercise program or water aerobics once a week during their pregnancies. Water aerobics consisted of exercises developed by midwives and physiotherapists. It had the same focus on aerobic and movement capacity as the land-based exercise regimen with the elimination of gravity and weight-bearing.

The women attended an average of about 13 to 16 exercise sessions in all. Sessions consisted of 45 minutes of activity followed by 15 minutes of relaxation. In total, 42% reported symptoms of pregnancy-related low-back or pelvic pain, or both. Women in the water aerobics group had significantly less pregnancy-related low-back pain compared with women in the land-based exercise group. No one in the water aerobics group took sick leave due to low-back pain, whereas six women in the land-based group took sick leave for that reason. There were no differences between the groups in terms of effects on pelvic pain.

The results suggest clear advantages of water aerobics over traditional exercise regimens in helping low-back pain associated with pregnancy. Decreased weight-bearing in the low-back region during exercise is seen as one of the main reasons for the differences seen between the aquatic and land-based exercise groups.

“Water aerobics is a simple and inexpensive form of physical activity,” said Granath. “Pregnant women should be encouraged to continue with moderate physical activity as long as possible.”

(J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 2006;35:465–71)

Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.

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