Obese mothers can protect their babies against adverse health effects by exercising during pregnancy, researchers claim

Exercise during pregnancy protects obese future mothers from gestational diabetes and their children from health problems later in life by restoring important tissues in the body.

  • Obese mice ran on a treadmill before and during pregnancy in a study
  • Scientists discovered that exercise helped the mice to control their blood sugar levels
  • Obesity increases the risk of gestational diabetes in the expectant mother
  • It predisposes both mother and baby to develop metabolic diseases

Obese mothers can protect themselves and their babies against adverse health effects by exercising during pregnancy, researchers claim.

Running on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day before and during pregnancy improved the health of internal organs in mice.

Exercise made expectant mice better at managing their blood sugar levels by restoring how their major tissues worked.

This can reduce the chances of mother and baby developing metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.


Scientists from the University of Cambridge said the findings are important in the midst of the current obesity epidemic worldwide.

Maternal obesity can have a major impact on both the mother and the baby, during pregnancy and years thereafter.

Health officials recommend staying as active as possible during pregnancy – but do not recommend dieting.

Obese mothers can protect their babies against adverse health effects by exercising during pregnancy, researchers claim

Obese mothers can protect their babies against adverse health effects by exercising during pregnancy, researchers claim

Dr. Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, who co-led the study, said: & A moderate level of exercise immediately before and then during pregnancy leads to important changes in different tissues of the obese mother, making the tissues more similar to those that become seen in non-obese mothers.

& # 39; We believe that these changes can explain how physical exercise improves the metabolism of the obese mother during pregnancy and in turn can prevent her babies developing early signs of type 2 diabetes after birth. & # 39 ;


In the UK, more than half of all women are of reproductive age and nearly one third of pregnant women are overweight or obese.

Short-term complications of maternal obesity are well recognized – including gestational diabetes that develops in the mother during pregnancy.

It also increases the risk of the dangerous pre-eclampsia complication, larger babies' need and a C-section.

Obesity makes both the mother and her baby susceptible to the development of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes later in life.

Exercise is known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in women who are not pregnant by improving the way the body manages blood sugar levels.


Until this study, however, little was known about how movement can change the body tissues of an obese pregnant woman.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, led by Dr. Barbara Musical, gave five mice a sugary, high-fat diet until they became obese.

Mice are a useful model for studying human diseases because they share a number of characteristics, including the effects of obesity and the female body during pregnancy.

The mice ran on a treadmill for at least 20 minutes a day for at least a week before their pregnancy, the team wrote in the journal Physiological Reports.

They said they chose to start the training regimen before pregnancy because it would reflect the scores of obese women trying to lose weight before becoming pregnant.


During pregnancy, the mice ran 12.5 minutes for five days of the week. They stopped on day 17, three days before delivery.

The researchers discovered that exercise influences the way in which molecules and cells in the tissue communicate.

In particular, how the cells responded to insulin and store and break down fats from food.

White fatty tissue, a type of fat that is under the skin and surrounding organs, showed the most important changes.

The researchers compared the fat with that of expectant mice of normal weight, and discovered that it was restored to a similar healthy state.


Co-study leader Professor Susan Ozanne said: “Our findings underline the importance of an active lifestyle and eating a healthy, balanced diet when planning a pregnancy and for both the mother and her developing child.

& # 39; This may be important to help reduce the risk of adverse maternal health problems and subsequent health problems for her child. & # 39;


The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier you can adjust to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you deal with work and get back into shape after birth.

Continue your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sports, running, yoga, dancing or even walking to the stores and back) as long as you feel comfortable.

Exercise is not dangerous for your baby – there are indications that active women are less likely to experience problems with later pregnancy and childbirth.

Practice tips if you are pregnant:

  • Always warm up before exercise and then cool down
  • try to stay active on a daily basis: walking for half an hour a day may be enough, but if you can't do that, any amount is better than nothing
  • avoid strenuous exercises in warm weather
  • drink plenty of water and other liquids
  • if you are going to take classes, make sure your teacher is well qualified and knows that you are pregnant
  • you may want to try swimming because the water supports your increased weight
  • exercises that can fall, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls can damage the baby

Exercises to avoid during pregnancy:

  • do not lie flat on your back for a long time, especially after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel and brings the blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
  • do not participate in contact sports where there is a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash
  • do not go diving, as the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism
  • do not exercise at altitudes above 2500 m above sea level until you are acclimatized: this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness

For more information, visit the NHS website.

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