Exercise During Pregnancy: Can It Instill a Lifelong Love of Exercise in Baby?

Exercise During Pregnancy: Can It Instill a Lifelong Love of Exercise in Baby?

There is extensive research on how exercising during pregnancy benefits mom, but what about how it affects baby, even after the womb? A new animal study published in FASEB Journal suggests that moms who run during pregnancy produce  kids who are more apt to be like them and become runners themselves, according to an article in the New York Times

The study showed that mice whose mothers ran were more likely to run themselves, compared to sedentary moms whose offspring were less active. These findings might not seem like a far leap from what most of us observe in our everyday lives--if parents are active, so are their kids, and vice versa. This study, however, hints that there might be a biological (including genetic) cause along with the social ones that influence whether a child is more likely to be active or sedentary. 

Scientists are also interested in research about the process known as developmental programming, which involves how a baby’s body and even DNA may be influenced by the environment she experiences in the womb and immediately after birth.  An example of this would be how babies born to diabetic mothers are more likely to be diabetic.   

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For the mice, which were identical and had identical upbringings, the researchers found that into their adolescence and middle age the mice born to runner mothers were more likely to run on their wheel and move about in the cage than those born to mothers who remained sedentary. 

Although this is only one study of mice, and not people, it illustrates how “a mother’s physical activity during pregnancy likely affects the physical activity of her offspring,” said Robert Waterland, a professor of pediatrics and genetics at Baylor who led the study, along with his colleagues Jesse Eclarinal and Shaoya Zhu. 

He added that, most importantly, this study is not a criticism of mothers who did not exercise. It is simply another indication that if a mother has her doctor’s blessing to be active during pregnancy, she can make herself healthier and may even give her child that same motivation from birth. 

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