Exercising While Pregnant Benefits the Baby, Too, Says Study

Exercising while pregnant can provide important heart health benefits for an unborn baby, new research has found.

Working out while pregnant — even just moderately — can benefit your offspring and protect against the cardiovascular effects of consuming a high-fat diet during pregnancy, according to a new mice study.

The study, conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and published in Molecular Metabolism, found that mice offspring had fewer heart issues after birth when their mothers exercised throughout pregnancy.

Specifically, data showed that maternal exercise protects against the effects of a maternal high-fat diet on cardiovascular health in female offspring. Maternal exercise also resulted in improved cardiomyocyte contraction (the pump function of the heart), calcium cycling (which drives muscle contraction and relaxation), and respiration in female offspring.

“These findings are significant because they show that exercise during pregnancy, even moderate exercise, can preserve cardiovascular health in female offspring,” lead author Kristin Stanford, Ph.D., a physiology and cell biology researcher with The Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Healthnews.

Exercise’s ability to negate the effects of a poor diet was only seen in female offspring during this study, however, while males still experienced adverse effects on their hearts.

While researchers aren’t yet sure why this is and will continue to look into the reasons for these results, they say their findings still demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle while pregnant can provide lasting benefits for the baby. But scientists still aren't entirely sure how this translates to pregnant women and their babies.

“If translatable, these demonstrate another mechanism for exercise during pregnancy to provide benefit to your children throughout their lifespan,” Stanford says.“Physical activity is such an important contributor to your health and I think these data really emphasize how essential it is to remain physically active while pregnant — obviously dependent on the condition of their pregnancy — not only for your health, but also for the health of your child.”

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