Childhood obesity is influenced by numerous factors, from genetics to junk food. Now, a new study indicates that mothers who exercise during pregnancy could help reduce their baby’s risk of future weight issues.
Most moms get into gear after they have a baby to shed their pregnancy pounds, but new research suggests that exercise during pregnancy is just as important for the baby’s health.
Although regular exercise during pregnancy doesn’t generally affect a mother’s weight, it could be key in preventing childhood obesity. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, evaluated 84 first time mothers. One group of participants were instructed to ride a stationary bike five days a week for 40 minutes, while women in the other group maintained their regular activity. The women started their exercise routine in the 20th week of pregnancy and continued until week 36.
When comparing the more active moms to those who weren’t exercising, the researchers found that the exercise didn’t make a difference in the mother’s weight. But the mothers who didn’t exercise had babies that were five ounces heavier than those who did. The results are significant, because larger babies (weighing more than 8 pounds, 12 ounces) are at risk for childhood obesity, according to another recent study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The same study found that physical activity during pregnancy can have a number of health benefits for an unborn baby, including improved mental health, preventing gestational diabetes, as well as healthy gestational weight gain. However, less than a quarter of pregnant women get the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.