Objective. Although it is well documented that breast milk provides optimal nutrition and immune benefits to the infant, factors that influence the immunologic composition of breast milk are less understood. A recent study reported that immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in breast milk are lower after exercise compared with resting concentrations. However, the women exercised until exhaustion. The effect of moderate exercise on immunologic components in breast milk has not been reported. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to 1) compare the levels of immunologic compounds in breast milk of exercising women with the milk of sedentary women and 2) determine whether 30 minutes of moderate exercise affects immunologic properties of breast milk.
Methods. Exclusively lactating women were studied at 3 months’ postpartum. Women in the exercise group (EG; n = 29) reported exercising aerobically at least 30 minutes/d for 3 days/wk, and women in the sedentary group (SG; n = 24) had exercised once a week or less during the previous 6 weeks. Cardiovascular fitness levels and concentrations of IgA, lactoferrin, and lysozyme in milk were measured. A subsample of the EG (n = 17) participated in a 30-minute exercise session at 75% of maximum heart rate and a rest session of 30 minutes of sitting rest on 2 separate days. Breast milk samples were collected before and 10 and 60 minutes after exercise and rest sessions. IgA, lactoferrin, and lysozyme concentrations were measured.
Results. Women in the EG had a higher level of cardiovascular fitness than women in the SG (39.7 ± 1.0 vs 32.4 ± 1.0 mL O2/kg/min). Milk concentrations of IgA, lactoferrin, or lysozyme were not significantly different between groups. In addition, there were no significant differences in the concentrations of IgA, lactoferrin, or lysozyme after moderate exercise compared with sitting rest.
Conclusion. Moderate exercise during lactation improves cardiovascular fitness without affecting levels of IgA, lactoferrin, or lysozyme in breast milk.