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Article Title:

"Impact of Maternal Exercise during Pregnancy on Offspring Chronic Disease Susceptibility"

This Brief's Subtopic:

Specifically, the impact of prenatal exercise on baby's metabolic health

Article Purpose:

To equip doctors and midwives with information to help persuade pregnant women to exercise, given how few pregnant women adhere to the minimum recommendations (less than 15%)

Publishing Journal:  

Exercise Sport and Sciences Review

Date Published:

October 2015


Article Type:  

Research review (an appraisal of multiple studies)



Mice and rats (given their placental similarities to humans, short gestation lengths, and their ability to generate large sample sizes)


What They Found:  

  • GLUCOSE & INSULIN TOLERANCE: Voluntary exercise by pregnant mice positively influenced both male and female offspring glucose and insulin tolerance during adulthood.

  • INSULIN SENSITIVITY: Female rat offspring born to exercising pregnant rats (dams) had significantly improved insulin sensitivity compared with those born to sedentary dams. Beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity are observed in mice and rats, suggesting that the findings are not species-specific.

  • BODY COMPOSITION: Male offspring from exercised dams showed decreased fat and increased lean mass percentages compared with offspring born to sedentary dams. Maternal exercise did not affect body composition significantly in female mouse or rat offspring. 

  • GLUCOSE UPTAKE: Maternal exercise during pregnancy can increase insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in offspring skeletal muscle (mice and rats) and adipose (fat) tissue (mice), and decrease uptake in heart tissue (rats) compared with offspring born to sedentary dams.

  • Offspring from mothers who were sedentary and consumed a high-fat diet had impaired glucose tolerance, increased serum insulin, and increased body fat percentage compared with the offspring from mothers who exercised before and during gestation.

  • OFFSETS mom not getting enough protein in her diet: Rodent offspring from mothers who consumed a low-protein diet and exercised during pregnancy displayed improved growth and development and glucose homeostasis compared with offspring from mothers who consumed the low-protein diet and did not exercise.

  • OFFSETS the negative influence of maternal obesity: Research using obese pregnant rats has shown that maternal exercise helps improve offspring metabolism by increasing lean mass and decreasing fat mass percentage in male offspring

  • OFFSETS mom getting too much unhealthy fat in her diet: Maternal exercise during pregnancy can prevent metabolic deregulation in the offspring that is associated with maternal high-fat diet consumption

Big Takeaways:

  • "Maternal exercise during pregnancy helps break the endocrine cycle that promotes obesity and, instead, improves the offspring’s metabolic profile."


  • "Most data suggest that maternal exercise during pregnancy positively impacts offspring metabolic health. Offspring from exercised mothers have improved insulin sensitivity, glucose handling, increased lean mass, and decreased fat mass compared with offspring from sedentary mothers."


  • "The improved metabolic profile of the offspring is not limited to those born to normal-weight healthy mothers, but rather, these improvements also can be seen in offspring from mothers who are undernourished or obese and exercise during pregnancy."


Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: October 2015 - Volume 43 - Issue 4 - p 198-203

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