Making movement fun may help new moms with heart risks

A woman pushes a baby in a stroller on a city sidewalk.

A digital health intervention slightly improved postpartum physical activity levels among individuals who experienced high blood pressure during pregnancy, according to research published in JAMA Cardiology.  

The goal of the 12-week intervention was to see if introducing increased physical activity through a gamified concept with social support, while following principles of behavioral economics, could improve the average daily step count of participants compared to a control group. Those in the intervention participated in virtual teams and could gain or lose points based on their daily step count. All 127 participants received a wearable physical activity tracker, a daily recommended step count, daily text messages, and selected their physical activity targets. 

After 12 weeks, individuals in the intervention-based group walked about 647 more steps per day compared to those in the control group. The researchers shared that incremental increases in physical activity, such as walking 1,000 more steps per day, have correlated with reduced risks for cardiovascular disease among people with lower physical activity levels. They also note future studies could explore how these types of interventions may help increase and sustain long-term changes in movement.  

The research was partially supported by NHLBI, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.