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Improved Metabolic Health of the Baby: Another Reason to Exercise During Pregnancy

A new study, conducted on mice, shows that exercising during pregnancy improves the metabolic health of the baby, even when the mother has obesity or consumes a high-fat diet. Researchers found that physical exercise by the mother induces the placenta to secrete a key protein called superoxide dismutase 3 (SOD3), which results in a lowered risk of diabetes for the offspring. The findings, which were published in the journal Diabetes, identified the mechanisms behind this process.

It has been observed that children born to mothers who have obesity or type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing diabetes, even after going on to live healthy lives.

Diet vs. Maternal Exercise


While the group’s research, including this study, has largely used animal models, the authors have also looked at SOD3 levels in pregnant women. They found that those who exercised more had higher levels of serum and placental SOD3, particularly during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The good news revealed by the study: The harmful effects of a maternal high-fat diet on an offspring’s metabolism are reversed by maternal exercise. The study also highlighted how crucial exercise is for negating these harmful effects, as physical activity is far more effective in producing SOD3 than any efforts to produce it artificially. For example, when the researchers infused N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an antioxidant that boosts performance in the liver, into the fetal liver, it did not reproduce the results of SOD3. This suggests the naturally produced SOD3 from exercise during pregnancy is vital to the offspring’s metabolic well-being.

Exercise: Benefits During Pregnancy for Baby

In fact, the latest guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in 2020 state that, “Women who begin their pregnancy with a healthy lifestyle (e.g., exercise, good nutrition, non-smoking) should be encouraged to maintain those healthy habits. Women who do not have healthy lifestyles should be encouraged to view the prepregnancy period and pregnancy as opportunities to embrace healthier routines.”

In addition to these maternal benefits, exercise during pregnancy also offers a host of benefits to the developing baby. Dr. James F. Clapp, one of the leading researchers in the world of prenatal fitness, has confirmed the following benefits from his decades of research:


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