Results from a study recently published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth showed that during pregnancy if the mother gains more weight than recommended, does not practice physical exercise or smokes, the likelihood that her child will be obese or overweight by the age of eight dramatically increases. The study was the result of a collaboration between researchers from the Harokopio University and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Each year, 300,000 children become obese worldwide with estimates showing that the number of overweight children will increase by 1.3 million per year. Between 2004 and 2007, more than half of pregnant women gained excessive weight while expecting, according to the Institute of Medicine.
In this new study, the team randomly chose a total of 5,125 children from a Greek national database and matched them with their mothers. They then conducted telephonic interviews and collected information regarding mother’s age at pregnancy, weight gained while expecting, the level of physical exercise during pregnancy, mothers’ smoking habits, their alcohol consumption behaviors and their child body mass index at eight years old.
Results revealed that throughout pregnancy, the amount of weight gained, physical exercise level and smoking habits were all associated with children’s obesity. The risk of childhood overweight or obesity was found to decrease with moderate exercise during pregnancy.
During the 1970s and 1980s, doctors were cautious about recommending pregnant women to exercise. However, researchers have now found that the practice of physical exercise is beneficial for both mothers and their babies, with the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now recommending pregnant women to practice 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, in the absence of obstetric complications or health problems.
“Pregnancy is a phase in a woman’s life in which she develops a greater awareness about her health and has an important opportunity to amend some unhealthy habits, like smoking and alcohol consumption, to adopt a more active lifestyle, and to participate in physical activities and/or exercise,” said UTMB’s Labros Sidossis, professor of Internal Medicine and Surgery in a recent news release. “Health care professionals should advise expecting mothers to limit their pregnancy weight gain to the recommended range, not to smoke and consume alcohol and to engage in moderate exercise during pregnancy.”