Findings from a new U.S. study suggest that some people may have been born to run, with a love of exercise developing as far back as in the womb.
In their study, published this week in The FASEB Journal, the team of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas discovered that female mice who exercised voluntarily during their pregnancy also had offspring that grew up to be more physically active as adults.
To carry out their research the team selected female mice who enjoyed running and split them into two groups, giving only one group access to running wheels before and during their pregnancy.
The mice who were given this access exercised throughout their pregnancy, and although the amount decreased as the pregnancy progressed, they were still running or walking around 3 kilometers a night even at the beginning of the third trimester.
Once the offspring were born, the team found that the those born to the exercising female mice were about 50 per cent more physically active than the mice born to females who didn't exercise, with this increased level of activity also continuing into later adulthood.
As both groups of mice loved running, but only one were able to do so during pregnancy, the results suggest that exercise during pregnancy influences the development of the fetus's brain, with the study's senior author Dr. Robert A. Waterland commenting that, "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."
And although the study used mice and not human participants, Dr. Waterland pointed out that "several human studies have reported results consistent with ours," with many observational studies also finding that women who are more active while pregnant also have children who tend to be more active.
"I think our results offer a very positive message," he added, "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."
Many leading expert groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, already recommend exercise for pregnant women, suggesting 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day for those without any pregnancy complications.