Doing This While You're Pregnant Could Turn Your Kid Into A Fitness Lover

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Exercising while pregnant can do more than help a mom-to-be manage her baby weight. According to new research, it may actually pre-dispose her child to an active lifestyle.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University recently conducted a study comparing the physical activity of genetically-similar mice to determine if the mother's activity level while pregnant has any effect on the behavior of her offspring.

First, the researchers mated genetically-identical male and female mice to create uniform fetuses. The rodents' genetic uniformity was crucial, as it limited the variables that could potentially affect the outcome of the experiment (such as one rat bearing a genetic or physical advantage over the others).

The researchers then separated the pregnant rats, giving one group access to running wheels, and depriving the other group of the opportunity to exercise. Then, after the offspring were born, the researchers analyzed their exercise habits throughout childhood into adulthood.

They found that while the baby mice seemed to exhibit similar behaviors regardless of parentage, the offspring of the more active moms tended to themselves be more active in adolescence and adulthood.

Pediatric professor and co-author Robert Waterland concluded,

A mother's physical activity during pregnancy likely affects the physical activity of her offspring.

Though the researchers can't yet explain why exercising during pregnancy affects the activity level of a mother's offspring, Dr. Waterland suggests it may have something to do with the chemicals and hormones released during exercise. It could even, he says, be that the jiggling of the womb impacts the fetus' brain development — although this explanation seems like a bit of a stretch.

Regardless of how or why, the fact of the matter is a mother's activity level may very well influence that of her child for life.

On the downside, this means you're going to want to exercise during your own pregnancy for the sake of your baby's health. On the plus side, you can now confidently say it really isn't your fault you're so lazy.

Read the study in full at The FASEB Journal.

Citations: Doing One Simple Thing When You're Pregnant May Save Your Kids From Hating Exercise (Cosmopolitan), Does Exercise During Pregnancy Lead to Exercise-Loving Offspring? (New York Times)