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UFV Chilliwack prof looking for new moms for exercise study

Dr. Iris Lesser studying physical activity post-pregnancy to help push exercise as a prescription
Dr. Iris Lesser of the University of the Fraser Valley is launching a new study to help push for exercise as a prescription for new moms. (Submitted photo)

A Chilliwack university professor is launching a study to examine the benefits of exercise for women post-pregnancy, and she’s looking for participants.

The study is being conducted by the University of the Fraser Valley’s Dr. Iris Lesser, who has run similar studies in the community over recent years. It is open to women who have had a baby in the last 12 months and are not currently physically active.

For those who do the study, this is how it will work. Right after waking up each morning during the first two weeks of the study, they’ll wear a chest strap to measure heart rate variability. Lower heart rate variability means that the body is under increased stress, usually due to a lack of quality sleep, and recovery is needed. Higher heart rate variability means the body is in a good place and more challenging exercise can be performed.

After gathering baseline data for two weeks, Lesser will use the results to map out a physical activity prescription.

“Those who participate will receive physical activity education and movement programming through an exercise guide that is individualized to their heart rate variability,” she explains. “This form of programming may assist new mothers in physical activity engagement that is right for their body as they navigate the challenges of motherhood.”

Participants will continue measuring heart rate variability and record whether they did or did not complete the physical activity. Lesser believes the study will provide knowledge that may be used to provide supportive programming to postpartum women.

“While the birth of a child is a joyous moment among families, there can be repercussions for the immediate and long-term mental and physical health of mothers,” Lesser says. “Physical activity is a valuable tool to assist in coping with physical and mental health postpartum. However, physical activity levels tend to be lower through pregnancy and after the birth of a child due to ambiguous recommendations that leave women at a loss as to how to return or begin physical activity.

“The goal with this study is to support mothers in listening to their body through physiological metrics to support self compassionate physical activity engagement.”

For study information and enrollment, email For questions about the research, email

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