Regular physical activity during pregnancy has been shown to benefit both mom and baby: Past studies found that exercise can help expectant mothers manage weight gain, sleep better, improve circulation and reduce swelling or leg cramps and increase their endurance in preparation for childbirth. A growing body of evidence also suggests that maternal exercise can boost babies' brain development and influence a child's health into adulthood.
Now findings (subscription required) published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness show that by exercising, moms may reduce their children's risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension. The Michigan State University researchers say their findings are significant because earlier studies have shown babies with low birth weight are more likely to have poor cardiovascular health and an increased risk of hypertension. PsychCentral reports:
[Researchers] initially evaluated 51 women over a five-year period based on physical activity such as running or walking throughout pregnancy and post-pregnancy.
In a follow up to the study, they found that regular exercise in a subset of these women, particularly during the third trimester, was associated with lower blood pressure in their children.
“This told us that exercise during critical developmental periods may have more of a direct effect on the baby,” [said lead author James Pivarnik, PhD].
The finding was evident when his research team also discovered that the children whose mothers exercised at recommended or higher levels of activity displayed significantly lower systolic blood pressures at eight to 10 years old.
“This is a good thing as it suggests that the regular exercise habits of the mother are good for heart health later in a child’s life,” Pivarnik said.
Previously: Extreme pregnancy: A look at exercise and expectant moms, Could exercise before and during early pregnancy lower risk of pre-eclampsia?, Are women getting the message about the benefits of exercising during pregnancy? and Pregnant and on the move: The importance of exercise for moms-to-be
Photo by Nathan Rupert