Study Finds That Exercising During Pregnancy May Save Kids from Health Problems as Adults

Staying fit while pregnant has benefits for both mom and baby for years to come.

By: Amanda Mushro
Pregnant mixed race woman exercising with dumbbells

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Pregnant mixed race woman exercising with dumbbells

Photo by: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

For many pregnant women, working out is a great way to reduce stress, alleviate the aches and pains of their changing bodies, and remain fit while they work hard at making another human. However, according to new research, exercising while pregnant may actually have lifelong benefits for their babies as well.

According to a new study out of the University of Virginia, mothers who exercise during pregnancy can significantly reduce their children’s chances of developing diabetes and other dangerous metabolic diseases later in life. So, the workouts mom does while pregnant can affect her children's health when they are adults.

"Most of the chronic diseases that we talk about today are known to have a fetal origin,” reported researcher Zhen Yan, PhD, a top exercise expert at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, adding, "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."

For this study, researchers looked at pregnant lab mice and their babies to understand how exercise during pregnancy actually prevented the moms or dads from passing certain diseases to their children. They examined "fit" mice—both mom and dad, as well as "obese" mice—and what they found was that if mom was active during her pregnancy, her babies were healthier and she didn’t pass on metabolic diseases like diabeties or high blood pressure. According to researchers, if the findings are true in humans, it will have "huge implications" for pregnant women incorporating exercise into their lives to help their children.

It can be hard to find the motivation to work out during pregnancy, but this may be the extra incentive future moms need to lace up their running shoes and engage in prenatal exercise. Even if you’ve never worked out before, being active while pregnant can be beneficial to you and your baby.

"The take-home message is that it is not too late to start to exercise if a mother finds herself pregnant," Yan said. “Regular exercise will not only benefit the pregnancy and labor, but also the health of the baby for the long run." So, running, yoga, or even taking a daily walk could be the perfect intervention to help pregnant women feel better and give birth to healthy babies.

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