Exercise during pregnancy is a topic that is of growing interest, especially with the increasing importance being given to people’s general health and fitness. In our previous piece we looked at the benefits of exercising during pregnancy for the mother but what about the unborn baby? Does keeping fit during pregnancy also have benefits for your offspring?
Growing evidence is now showing that exercise during pregnancy is not only safe but also beneficial to both the mother and the foetus, and these benefits could continue for your child throughout their childhood and into adulthood.
A study by Linda May found that the unborn babies of women who exercised during pregnancy had lower, and therefore healthier heart rates than the babies of sedentary mums. When assessed 6 weeks before due date, the babies of active mothers also showed increased heart efficiency as they pumped more blood with each heartbeat than the babies of the mums in the control group who did not exercise. Interestingly, this was also the case in the group of mums who didn’t partake in exercise classes prior to becoming pregnant, but who started during their pregnancy; this shows that keeping active during pregnancy does in fact do wonders for your baby before he or she is even born and, as we always say at Hub, it is never too late to start!
It is very exciting to see that maternal exercise during pregnancy has a positive impact on the mother’s health as well as the baby’s and, as previously mentioned, these health benefits can set up your child for a healthier childhood and later in life. May’s study showed that babies of mums who exercised during pregnancy had higher heart rate variability; and this was not only the case at birth but lasted for at least the first few months of the baby’s life. Research is now being conducted to establish how far into the child’s life these effects last.
Some recent studies suggest, although results haven’t yet been published, that mothers who exercise during pregnancy have babies born with lower body fat, which carries on to last throughout childhood. This goes hand in hand with the evidence that babies of mothers with gestational diabetes have a higher percentage of body fat, and as we mentioned in our previous blog post keeping active during pregnancy reduces the risk of developing gestational diabetes, therefore increases the chances of giving birth to a baby with healthy levels of body fat.
Although still in the early stages of research, these findings could be a major discovery as they would provide great hope to address some of our more recent major health issues, such as childhood obesity and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It has also been demonstrated that maternal exercise during gestation caused no harm on either the baby’s growth and development or their intelligence and cognition.
With the proof that exercising during pregnancy is safe and actually beneficial to the mum and baby, it can only be a good thing to set healthy lifestyle habits for your offspring, right from the beginning!
Registered Osteopath & Head of Hub Pregnancy
The Influence of Prenatal Exercise on Offspring Health: A Review. Carmen Moyer, Olga Roldan Reoyo, and Linda May.
Fetal and maternal cardiac responses to physical activity and exercise during pregnancy.
May LE, Allen JJ, Gustafson KM.
(Published October 2016)