Exercise has been found to aid in everything from treating high blood pressure to protecting against Alzheimer's. Now new research is revealing it may also protect offspring from obesity.
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A study conducted on mice
A new study conducted on mice found that exercising during pregnancy led to offspring that were less likely to gain weight even after consuming a high-fat diet. This remained true regardless of the mother's weight.
"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," said Jun Seok Son, a doctoral student at the Washington State University who conducted the study.
This is not the first time exercise has been evaluated to be beneficial to pregnant females and their offspring.
Previous research has shown that exercise by obese females benefits their offspring. However, this is the first work to demonstrate that the same is true for non-obese females.
Researchers followed mice that performed 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every morning during pregnancy. They used the offspring born to mice that didn't exercise as a control group.
Brown adipose tissue
What they found was that at weaning, the offspring of the exercising mice had higher levels of proteins associated with brown adipose tissue compared to the control group. Adipose tissue is used to store energy in the form of fat while also cushioning and insulating the body.
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It is responsible for turning fat and sugar into heat. The exercise group's offspring also had higher body temperatures, an indication that their brown adipose tissue was more efficient.
The researchers then put the offspring on a high-fat diet for eight weeks. The mice from the exercising females were not only less adverse to gaining weight they also showed fewer symptoms of metabolic diseases.
The study not only indicates that exercise during pregnancy makes offspring less likely to gain weight. It also implies the opposite: that females who do not exercises expose their children to higher risks of weight gain and related diseases.
"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," said Son.