When a woman is pregnant, she may be tempted to cut back on exercise. Just moving her body around can feel like a workout. But this is not the time to let up; it’s the time to double-down, for your baby’s sake as well as your own.
Exercise not only reduces a woman’s risk of developing complications in pregnancy, it can also ease its common discomforts such as back pain.
And there's more. The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are much more far-reaching: A Japanese study shows how it can lower a newborn’s risk of a developing diabetes.
The finding is powerful because maternal obesity and type 2 diabetes are on a gallop. More than 30 percent of women of childbearing age in Western and Asian countries are classified as obese. It’s projected that by 2045, 30 million people will be living with type 2 diabetes. Perhaps even more troublesome, if their mom was obese while carrying them, babies have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they grow up.
“With the growth of maternal obesity, a worrying cycle is forming where the risk of diabetes gets passed down from generation to generation,” the study’s lead author, assistant professor Johi Kusuyama from Tohoku University’s Interdisciplinary Institute for Frontier Sciences (FRIS), said in a press statement.
The SOD3 protein, produced naturally after exercise, was the magic bullet, even canceling some of the effects of a bad diet.
The study was conducted on mice to understand how exercise during pregnancy affects the likelihood of an infant developing diabetes. The researchers based their work on a previous study that showed that the placenta protein called “superoxide dismutase 3” (SOD3) helps to pass the benefits of exercise from mother to the baby in utero. In the newest study, the research team focused on the way the protein may also help to prevent metabolic health risks during pregnancy.
They found that exercising not only reduces the risk of obesity in offspring but it also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes as well. It can even offset some of the risks of high-fat diets. The SOD3 protein, produced naturally after exercise, was the magic bullet. It was found to be responsible for the abnormalities that are likely to develop in infant’s glucose metabolism when pregnant women follow unhealthy diets.
That’s not all. The researchers also tested an antioxidant that is supposed to improve glucose metabolism on the infant mice. Though the nutrient was effective, the SOD3 protein that the moms created naturally after exercise did a better job at promoting healthy metabolic function.
“There may be wider benefits of this protein on other organs in the child,” said Kusuyama. “We are currently looking into the modifications in placenta tissue brought about by SOD3 that may have positive lifelong impacts on children.”
“With the growth of maternal obesity, a worrying cycle is forming where the risk of diabetes gets passed down from generation to generation.”
If you are interested in upping your physical activities during pregnancy, keep in mind that not all exercises may be appropriate. For example, basketball, downhill skiing, hot yoga and scuba diving are generally discouraged for pregnant women. It’s a good idea to first check with your obstetrician-gynecologist to be sure your exercise routine is safe.
The study is published in Diabetes.