Taking light exercise during pregnancy may improve the future health of a child by controlling weight in the womb, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Overweight or obese mums are more likely to have larger babies which could be at higher risk of health problems later in life.
There is increasing evidence that the future metabolism of a child may be influenced by its environment in the womb and that babies who are relatively heavy for their length may be more likely to be obese in future years.
Official guidance in the UK tells doctors to encourage women not to overeat during pregnancy and wherever possible, take light exercise on a regular basis.
The joint study between the University of Auckland and Northern Arizona University recruited pregnant women, half of whom were asked to use exercise bikes for five 40 minute sessions each week until at least the 36th week of pregnancy.
On average, the exercising women had babies who were no shorter than their non-exercising counterparts, but who were lighter on average.
This suggested that the regime did not stunt growth in the womb, but reduced the amount of extra fat laid down by the babies.
In addition, the exercise did not appear to interfere with the natural changes in the mother’s response to the hormone insulin, a necessary mechanism in pregnancy to make sure the foetus is properly nourished.
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