Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Can exercise during pregnancy reduce obesity in offspring?

According to researchers at Washington State University, the answer is yes.

This photo taken on July 16, 2017 shows pregnant women doing yoga in a performance in Qingdao, in China's eastern Shandong province.

Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images
  • Washington State University researchers found that exercising while pregnant might reduce the risk of obesity in children.
  • The study, conducted on mice, also discovered that offspring of fit mothers have better metabolic health.
  • Infant mice whose mothers exercised had higher levels of brown adipose tissue, aka brown fat.

There's an ongoing joke among members of Gen X that our mothers smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol while pregnant and we turned out just fine. Well, sort of. Research has shown that obesity levels among my peers are not great. Mental health issues are also on the rise. Of course, this cannot be pinned on maternal habits—we can't blame everything on our parents—though a new study shows it plays a role.

Washington State University professor Min Du and his PhD student, Jun Seok Son, discovered that female mice that exercised had healthier offspring than mothers that got no wheel time. Offspring of the exercising mothers group are less likely to grow obese and exhibit better metabolic health.

Exercising while pregnant stimulates the production of brown adipose tissue, otherwise known as brown fat. Its primary function is thermoregulation; fans of Dutch athlete Wim Hof are well aware that he has an inordinate amount of brown fat, which is in part why he can thrive in freezing ice baths, meditate in subzero temperatures, and scale Mt Kilimanjaro wearing only shorts.

Newborns have a lot of brown fat, as do hibernating mammals. This tissue decreases as we age. Brown fat is much healthier than white fat; we don't want to carry the latter around. Whereas the accumulation of white fat leads to all of the metabolic and cardiovascular issues we associate with obesity, brown adipose tissue activation has been shown to promote bone health and density; increase levels of irisin, which helps build lean muscle mass; improve insulin sensitivity; and aid in longevity by increasing levels of the protein hormone adiponectin.

5 Best Pregnancy Lower Back Pain Relief Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo

Du and Son's study might be the first to display the possible benefits of exercising while pregnant. Previous research has linked maternal obesity to infants. This study shows the benefits of exercise, one of which is better glucose tolerance, meaning children have a reduced likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Son says,

"These findings suggest that physical activity during pregnancy for fit women is critical for a newborn's metabolic health. We think this research could ultimately help address obesity in the United States and other countries."

Still, myths perpetuate regarding the efficacy of exercising while pregnant. According to NYU OB-GYN, Jennifer Aquino, as long as women stay hydrated while working out, they are unlikely to experience ill effects. Overheating is a major concern, however. Avoid exercise in hot environments. Eating a snack before working out is also a good idea.

The current guidelines for exercising while pregnant are similar to everyone else: 150 minutes of moderate level fitness, split between cardiovascular and strength training. Pregnant women generally want to choose low impact options, such as swimming and indoor cycling. Of course, every woman's approach should be tailored to meet their needs and pre-pregnancy fitness levels.

Alysia Montano

Alysia Montano runs in the Women"s 800 Meter opening round during Day 1 of the 2017 USA Track & Field Championships at Hornet Stadium on June 22, 2017 in Sacramento, California.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As a general guideline, my advice as a fitness instructor (who has taught hundreds of pregnant women over the last 16 years) has been to keep up their regimen as best they can, provided they are healthy enough to do so and with modifications. I don't advise learning anything new during this time as that could increase their risk for injury. If an expecting mother does want to engage in new exercise routines, medical professionals advicse slow adoption.

Again, anecdotally, I've seen a range of responses. Some women choose to scale back their routines or even stop working out if adverse reactions begin (usually causing them to take bed rest). I've also seen one instructor friend teach kickboxing and perform handstands while nine months pregnant. I even had a woman in her fortieth week take my class to try to "get the baby out already." (He was born the next day, though I take no credit for that.)

It should not surprise anyone that healthier mothers have healthier babies. We are well aware of the genetic consequences of our parents that we pass to our offspring. We also know well the behavioral imprints our forebears leave on us. A guy named Freud wrote a few books about that. Of course, parental behavior affects our development in every capacity, fitness levels included. Thanks to this team in Washington, we have proof.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

Climate change melts Mount Everest's ice, exposing dead bodies of past climbers

Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Surprising Science
  • Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
  • Recent glacial melting, caused by climate change, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
  • While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
Keep reading Show less

Creativity: The science behind the madness

Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.

Creativity: The science behind the madness | Rainn Wilson, David Eagleman, Scott ...
Videos
  • An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
  • According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
  • Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.

New study explores how to navigate 'desire discrepancies' in long term relationships

With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.

NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
  • Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast