UMass Study Suggests Walking Helps Overweight Women Get Pregnant

May 10, 2018

UMass researchers say taking short walks can increase the chance of getting pregnant, at least for some women.

For a previous study on pregnancy, about 1,200 women who'd had one or two miscarriages listed several of their health habits. UMass researchers then pulled out the information on exercise.

Epidemiologist Brian Whitcomb said they found overall exercise levels had little impact on whether the women went on to get pregnant. But among overweight women, those who reported taking at least one 10-minute walk a week were more likely to conceive.

Granted, only a small percentage of the group failed to take that short walk, but Whitcomb said the results still point to a basic recommendation.

"Whereas there are lots of things where it's hard to imagine how you could have an impact," Whitcomb said, "physical activity is something [that is] within people's control."

Whitcomb did point out that women who walk more might also have other beneficial habits.

"We don't have a good measure of diet in this study," he said, "so it's possible that the women who were walking were also following more generally healthy behaviors, and that's something we don't know."

He said it's already well established in public health research that being overweight or obese leads to worse pregnancy outcomes.

Whitcomb said that in the future, he hopes to understand the biological reasons that exercise helps with pregnancy -- whether it relates to weight loss, lower stress levels or cardiac health.