Responses of serum neurotrophic factors to exercise in pregnant and postpartum women.

Research paper by Sandra Rojas SR Vega, Jens J Kleinert, Marion M Sulprizio, Wildor W Hollmann, Wilhelm W Bloch, Heiko K HK Strüder

Indexed on: 10 Aug '10Published on: 10 Aug '10Published in: Psycho­neuro­endocrinology


It was recently shown in humans that exercise affects the neurotrophic factors known to function as neurogenesis regulators. No data related to exercise and pregnancy, however, is yet available. Thus, we investigated the effects of acute exercise on pregnant women during late pregnancy and women postpartum, on the serum concentration of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), prolactin (PRL) and cortisol (COR). Twenty women with uncomplicated pregnancies underwent a graded submaximal exercise test during pregnancy (weeks 32-36 of gestation; T(1)) and postpartum (10-12 weeks after childbirth; T(2)). On two of these test days the women carried out an intensifying exercise test (25 W steps) on a cycle ergometer until a heart rate of 150 bpm was reached. Blood samples were taken in the rest period before beginning the exercise, immediately at the end of the exercise and after recovery periods of 5 and 10 min, respectively. Basal maternal IGF-1, PRL and COR were found to be higher during T(1) (p<.01), while the BDNF was higher during T(2) (p=.00). VEGF was not detectable in the serum of the pregnant women. During T(2), VEGF, which was found to be within the normal range before exercise, was at a higher level after exercise (p<.01). Exercise increased the BDNF and IGF-1 during T(1) and T(2) (p<.01). This study also shows that exercise increases the serum concentrations of IGF-1 and BDNF during pregnancy and postpartum as well as VEGF postpartum. Thus, exercise might be a beneficial lifestyle factor with therapeutic/public health implications i.e. with regard to maternal mood and cognitive performance.