Do you like to exercise? Your love to get out and get active may have started in the womb. Scientists have found that female mice that voluntarily exercise during pregnancy have offspring that are more physically active as adults.
In this latest study, the researchers selected female mice that all enjoyed running. Then, the scientists divided these mice into two groups. One of the groups was allowed access to running wheels before and during pregnancy and the other group was not granted access.
"Our study in a mouse model is important because we can take all those effects out of the equation," said Robert A. Waterland, referring to the various different influences that impact humans. "We studied genetically identical mice and carefully controlled the amount of physical activity of the mothers before pregnancy."
So what did they find? The female mice with the running wheels ran about 10 kilometers each night. However, they ran less as their pregnancies progressed. But even during the beginning of their third trimester, they walked about three kilometers each night.
What was interesting is that the activity of the mothers affected the activity of their children. The researchers discovered that mice born to active mothers were about 50 percent more physically active than those born to mothers who did not exercise. Not only that, but their increased activity persisted into later adulthood, and even improved their ability to lose fat during an exercise program. This is particularly important to note since both groups of mice were otherwise identical.
"Although most people assume that an individual's tendency to be physically active is determined by genetics, our results clearly show that the environment can play an important role during fetal development," Waterland said.
The findings show that by increasing physical activity, mothers may be able to help influence the health of their offspring.
"I think our results offer a very positive message," Waterland said. "If expectant mothers know that exercise is not only good for them but also may offer lifelong benefits for their babies, I think they will be more motivated to get moving."
The findings were published in the March issue of FASEB Journal.