Exercising During Pregnancy Reduces Children’s Risk of Metabolic Diseases

March 19, 2021 12:22:41

New research has found that maternal exercise may allow mothers to considerably decrease the chances of their children developing metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, as they grow older. The study, which was conducted on lab mice, discovered that exercising during pregnancy hindered the transmission of metabolic ailments from an obese father or mother to the child. The researchers reported that if these findings remain unchanged in humans, it could significantly help pregnant women ensure that their children lived healthy lives.

Leading exercise expert from the University of Virginia School of Medicine Zhen Yan, who is also a researcher, explained that the majority of the chronic illnesses individuals suffer from currently have a fetal origin. This, Yan said, indicated that the poor health conditions of the parent before getting pregnant and during pregnancy negatively affect the child, possibly through gene chemical modification.

Yan explained that the source of inspiration for the research came from a prior research on mice, which focused on how regular aerobic exercise for an obese mother prior to and during pregnancy could protect the child from early onset diabetes. Yan added that for their research the group had chosen to focus on what would happen if the father was obese and the obese mother only exercised during the pregnancy.

For a while now, researchers have known that exercising during pregnancy helps decrease the risk of premature delivery and pregnancy complications and promotes the delivery of healthy babies.

However, Yan, who is also director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center at the university, wanted to see whether the benefits carried on as the children grew older. He discovered, through prior and new research, that benefits did in fact continue throughout a child’s life.

To determine this, Yan and other researchers studied lab mice as well as their offspring. Some of the mice were fed normal mouse food prior to and during pregnancy while the rest received a high-calorie, high-fat diet to feign obesity. Some mice in the group that got the high-fat diet prior to mating were given access to a running wheel during pregnancy while others were not.

The researchers found that both fathers and mothers in the high-fat diet group predisposed their offspring to metabolic ailments. Particularly, male offspring of mothers from the same group who weren’t given access to a running wheel were at a higher risk of developing high blood sugar and other metabolic issues as they got older.

The researchers noted that these results, which were reported in the “Journal of Applied Physiology,” offer evidence that maternal exercise during pregnancy could hinder the transmission of metabolic ailments from parent to offspring.

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