Male offspring appear to benefit more than females from the positive effects of exercise during pregnancy, says a new study.
Obese mothers who exercised moderately while pregnant reduced their offspring’s body weight, insulin and blood glucose levels, potentially lessening their risk of developing metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes later in life, showed the findings of the study conducted in mice.
However, the effects were sex specific, with males appearing to benefit more from maternal exercise than females.
"Maternal exercise significantly improved male offspring’s insulin and glucose metabolism whereas female offspring showed only modest improvements," said lead researcher Margaret Morris from the University of New South Wales in Australia.
For the study, female rats were fed a high fat diet, including pies, cakes and biscuits for six weeks before mating and throughout gestation and lactation.
Half underwent voluntary exercise introduced 10 days prior to mating and available until their offspring were delivered, while others remained sedentary.
Gene expression relating to glucose, metabolism and inflammation in fat and muscle tissue were then measured 19 days after birth.
"Maternal exercise appeared to decrease the metabolic risk induced by maternal obesity, limiting fat deposits around the abdomen in the offspring and improving their insulin and glucose metabolism during the lactation window," Morris noted.
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.