When you exercise, your muscles get stronger, you may lose body fat, you can run farther and faster than before and your chance of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease go way down. But have you thought about how your exercising can affect your kids’ health, too?
At this year’s Experimental Biology meeting, Angela Devlin, PhD, of the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Canada, presented research from her lab suggesting that people who exercise before getting pregnant may be able to protect their kids from certain health risks such as obesity and diabetes.
Scientists have known that people who eat a lot of high-fat, high-calorie foods and have obesity can negatively affect the health of their babies. The infants have a higher risk of being overweight themselves and developing diabetes when they grow up. However, not much is known about whether simple exercise can help parents prevent all of these bad things from happening to their kids.
Devlin studied female mice that were fed high-fat food similar to what people who eat a lot of fast food might consume. While on this diet, the mice got fatter and were generally unhealthy. Half of the mice were allowed to exercise on wheels, while the other half of the mice did not get any exercise. When these mice had pups, the pups were fed the same high-fat diet until they became adults. Compared to the mice that came from the moms that exercised, the mice whose moms did not exercise were fatter, had unhealthy blood vessels and showed signs of developing type 2 diabetes. This means that the exercise really made a big difference in making the pups leaner and healthier as adults, even if the pups also ate unhealthy food.
This goes to show how important it is to exercise, especially if you are thinking about having kids. You can’t control the genes that you pass on to your children, but you can control the foods you eat and the amount of exercise you get. So, eat lots of lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and try going to the gym or going outside for a stroll a few times a week. Your (future) kids will thank you!
Dao H. Ho, PhD, is a biomedical research physiologist at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. She served as a meeting blogger for the American Physiological Society’s 2021 annual meeting at Experimental Biology. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. government.