Exercise doesn’t just do an expectant mother’s body good, it also has far-reaching effects for her baby. Research now shows that one of the health benefits of exercising while pregnant is that it protects your children — even later into their adulthood lives.
The preliminary findings of the study, presented at a meeting of the American Physiological Society, examined markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin sensitivity in mice born to mothers that exercised while pregnant. The mice who engaged in exercise had offspring with better stress resistance and improved insulin sensitivity, compared to those born to sedentary mothers.
When free radicals, or unstable molecules, build up, this causes oxidative stress to the body. Free radical buildup lowers your resistance to stress and increases risks of obesity and chronic diseases. So, reducing oxidative stress is helpful in lessening conditions like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers believe results of the rodent study will hold great possibilities for human health. “Our findings highlight pregnancy as a sensitive period when positive lifestyle interventions could have significant and long-lasting beneficial effects on offspring metabolism and disease risk,” the research team wrote.
When Mothers Exercise, Male Offspring Benefit More Than Females
A separate study, published in the journal PLOS ONE and done with rats, showed that mothers who engaged in moderate exercise while pregnant also reduced the body weight, insulin and blood glucose levels of their offspring. Findings showed that because of this, their risks of developing disorders like type-2 diabetes were also lessened later in life.
But the study showed that the sexes yielded very different results. Male offspring subjects benefited more from maternal exercise than female offspring.
“Maternal exercise significantly improved male offspring’s insulin and glucose metabolism whereas female offspring showed only modest improvements,” said Professor Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology from the School of Medical Sciences, who led the University of New South Wales medical research team. “As to why male offspring seem to benefit more than females from the positive effects of exercise during pregnancy, that’s a mystery that we hope to solve with further research.”