Baylor College of Medicine researchers suggest in a new study that women who are more physically active during pregnancy have children who tend to be more physically active.

However, according to the study, which appears in The FASEB Journal, the results could be attributed to either the mother’s influence over the children after they are born, or to a genetic predisposition to be physically active.

“Our study in a mouse model is important because we can take all those effects out of the equation. We studied genetically identical mice and carefully controlled the amount of physical activity of the mothers before pregnancy,” says the study’s senior author, Robert A. Waterland, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics—nutrition and molecular and human genetics at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor, and Texas Children’s Hospital, in a media release from Baylor College of Medicine.

In their study, Waterland and his team selected female mice that enjoyed running, and divided them into two groups: one that was allowed access to running wheels before and during pregnancy, and the other that was not.

During early pregnancy, the female mice that had access to running wheels ran an average of 10 kilometers a night. They ran less as their pregnancy progressed, but even by the beginning of the third trimester they ran (or walked) about 3 kilometers each night.

The team found that the mice born to mothers that exercised during pregnancy were about 50% more physically active than those born to mothers who did not exercise. Importantly, their increased activity persisted into later adulthood, and even improved their ability to lose fat during a 3-week voluntary exercise program, the release explains.

This study suggests that movement during pregnancy influences fetal brain development, making the offspring tend to be more physically active throughout life. “Although most people assume that an individual’s tendency to be physical active is determined by genetics, our results clearly show that the environment can play an important role during fetal development,” Waterland states in the release.

“I think our results offer a very positive message,” Waterland adds. “If expectant mothers know that exercise is not only good for them but also may offer lifelong benefits for their babies, I think they will be more motivated to get moving.”

[Source(s): Baylor College of Medicine, Science Daily]