News ID: 258024
Published: 1003 GMT August 30, 2019

Exercise in pregnancy improves health of obese mothers, study finds

Exercise in pregnancy improves health of obese mothers, study finds
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Exercise immediately prior to and during pregnancy restores key tissues in the body, making them better able to manage blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of long term health problems, suggests new research carried out in mice.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge, who led the study published today in the journal Physiological Reports, say the findings reinforce the importance of an active lifestyle when planning pregnancy, Medicalxpress reported.

In the UK, more than a half of all women of reproductive age and almost a third of pregnant women are overweight or obese.

This is particularly concerning, as being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the risk of complications in the mother, such as gestational diabetes, and predisposes both her and her infant to develop metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the years after pregnancy.

Exercise is known to improve how the body manages blood sugar levels and thereby reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in non-pregnant women. It also has positive effects prior to and during pregnancy, with beneficial outcomes for both mother and her child, preventing excessive gestational weight gain and the development of gestational diabetes, and the need for insulin use in women who have already developed gestational diabetes.

 However, little is known about the changes that exercise causes to the tissues of obese pregnant mother.

To answer this questions, researchers at the University of Cambridge fed mice a sugary, high fat diet such that they become obese and then the obese mice were exercised. The mice exercised on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for at least a week before their pregnancy and then for 12.5 minutes a day until day 17 of the pregnancy (pregnancy lasts for around 20 days in mice).

Mice are a useful model for studying human disease as their biology and physiology have a number of important characteristics in common with those of humans, including showing metabolic changes with obesity/obesity-causing diets and in the female body during pregnancy.

The researchers found that the beneficial effects on metabolic health in obese mothers related to changes in how molecules and cells communicate in maternal tissues during pregnancy.

"A moderate level of exercise immediately before and then during pregnancy leads to important changes in different tissues of the obese mother, effectively making the tissues more like those seen in non-obese mothers," says Dr. Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow from the Center for Trophoblast Research in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, who co-led the study.

 

   
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