Mothers exercising while pregnant may help children avoid health problems as adults
Talk about long-term benefits.
We have all heard that keeping active during pregnancy is good for us – it can lessen discomfort as our bump grows, ensure we don't put on unnecessary weight and even help us have an easier delivery with less chance of needing any medical intervention.
All good reasons to break a sweat when expecting, right?
However, researchers have now found an even bigger incentive for pregnant mums to stay healthy and active throughout their pregnancy. According to a study at the University of Virginia, exercise during pregnancy may significantly reduce a child’s odds of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases years and decades later.
How crazy is that?!
A team from the U.S. and Denmark reached these findings through a series of experiments involving lab mice. And what they found was that maternal exercise during pregnancy appeared to impede the transmission of metabolic diseases from obese mice to their pups.
While not confirmed yet, if the same holds true among humans this discovery will have “huge implications” for expecting mothers, according to the researchers.
“Most of the chronic diseases that we talk about today are known to have a fetal origin. This is to say that the parents’ poor health conditions prior to and during pregnancy have negative consequences to the child, potentially through chemical modification of the genes,” says researcher Zhen Yan, PhD, a top exercise expert at UVA’s School of Medicine, in a university release.
“We were inspired by our previous mouse research implicating that regular aerobic exercise for an obese mother before and during pregnancy can protect the child from early onset of diabetes. In this study, we asked the questions, what if an obese mother exercises only during pregnancy, and what if the father is obese?”
Obese mothers can pass on problems to their kids
Previous studies have discovered that exercising while pregnant helps foster a healthy baby until birth. However, it’s been less clear if exercise has any impact on life-long health development for the child. Dr. Yan and his team decided to investigate this topic.
The researchers turned their attention to a group of lab mice and their offspring. Some adult mice received “typical” mouse food both before conception and while pregnant. Study authors fed others a particularly fatty, high-calorie diet to simulate obesity. Among the mice eating a fatty diet, only half had access to a voluntary running wheel while pregnant. The other half had no choice but to lounge all day.
Ultimately, mice born to parents eating a fatty diet were much more likely to develop a metabolic disorder.
Even more specifically, males born to sedentary, obese mothers were especially at risk for high blood sugar and other metabolic problems as an adult.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.