Good news to all moms-to-be, exercising regularly during pregnancy can offer numerous benefits for both maternal health and fetal development. A new study suggests that pregnancy exercises can improve placental function and metabolism in the mothers.
Over 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight or obese, and by 2025, this is projected to increase to 2.7 billion. Obesity significantly raises the risk of developing 11 different types of cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
New research in The Journal of Physiology found a possible explanation for the benefits of maternal exercise on fetal development, in obese mothers: it's down to improved placental function, which prevents the fetus from growing too big, and also better metabolism in the mothers.
In this study, female mice were fed a healthy diet (10% energy from fat) or a high-fat diet to become obese and then mated. Each of the maternal groups was further divided into two subgroups: those that did and did not perform exercise during gestation. Mice were exercised from 0 to 18.5 days of pregnancy (the term is 20.5 days) and placental function, and maternal and fetal changes were analyzed.
Further studies will focus on identifying mechanisms explaining the beneficial effects of exercise on placental development of obese mothers. Researchers will define the possible role of chemicals secreted during exercise, on blood vessel development in the placenta, which is critical for the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to fetuses, as well as their long-term impacts on the health of next generation. Prof Min Du, senior author on the paper said:
"Understanding how maternal exercise might help prevent offspring from becoming obese or developing metabolic diseases will help us best guide mothers so they can ensure their babies are as healthy as possible."