Exercise and I have a complicated relationship. I like a few different outdoor activities, but exercising in a gym or in my garage is not something that I can bring myself to do often, even when I can’t do my normal outdoor activities like hiking and swimming. However, regular exercise not only makes you feel more awake and invigorated, it’s also important for keeping your vascular system healthy.

Recently, researchers have found that regular exercise during pregnancy can help improve your child’s vascular system into their adulthood. The new study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, found that maternal exercise is a powerful programming stimulus for building healthy arteries in fetuses. Previous studies have focused on exercise at a young age, but this study is the first to focus on prenatal exercise for the infant’s sake.

The recommended fitness guidelines for pregnant women are 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week. Though not all physicians believe that this amount is healthy for pregnant women, most agree that some type of regular exercise has a positive effect on both the mother and child.

Lead authors of the study, Dr. Sean Newcomer of California State University San Marcos, USA, and Dr. Bahls of Universitätsmedizin Greifswald, Germany, remarked on the uniqueness of their study and said that “previous research identified the endothelium, which is the single-cell layer lining all blood vessels, to be susceptible to fetal-programming interventions. Contrarily, we show that the vascular smooth muscle was significantly altered in adult offspring from exercise trained mothers."

To find if the vascular system in infants was affected by maternal exercise, the research team conducted several experiments using pigs, which have human-like responses to physical activity and can also be trained to complete exercise regimes.  The pregnant swine used in the study exercised on a treadmill for 20-40 minutes five days a week. After this, vascular function of the offspring was recorded with vitro techniques.

Though the results were positive, the team says that further research involving humans must be done in order to get the most accurate results possible.

Drs. Newcomer and Bahls commented that "We are only starting to understand how exercise during gestation influences offspring adult health and disease. Results like ours may help to create guidelines enabling women to make the best decisions for them and their children by providing evidence based health choices.”

Source: Wiley (2013, October 24). Exercise during pregnancy improves vascular function of offspring into adulthood. ScienceDaily.

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