Exercise during pregnancy may reduce obesity risk in children

A new study has found evidence that exercise during pregnancy may decrease the offspring's risk of becoming obese later in life. The latest work joins a body of past research that found evidence suggesting pregnant mothers who exercise may improve their future child's overall metabolic health. The benefits appear to remain even if the expecting mother is not obese.

The latest research is being presented at the American Physiological Society's 2019 Experimental Biology meeting this week. The study involved pregnant mice and looked at whether exercise during pregnancy in non-obese females had the same metabolic benefits for offspring as exercise in expecting mothers who are obese.

Pregnant mice were tasked with 60 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity daily during their pregnancies. A control group of pregnant mice did not exercise. The offspring from both groups were studied; members from the exercise group were found to have more calorie-burning "brown fat" than offspring from the non-exercise group.

In addition, the offspring from both groups were fed a high-fat diet for eight weeks, and members from the exercise group were found to gain less weight and have fewer metabolic disease symptoms than mice produced from the mothers who didn't get exercise during pregnancy.

Washington State University doctoral student Jun Seok Son, who performed the study, explained:

Based on our findings, we recommend that women–whether or not they are obese or have diabetes–exercise regularly during pregnancy because it benefits their children's metabolic health ... Our data suggest that the lack of exercise in healthy women during pregnancy can predispose their children to obesity and associated metabolic diseases partially through impairing thermogenic function.