You know that working out during pregnancy is a great way to stave off weight gain, and that it can even make labor easier. But a Michigan State University study is offering yet another reason to hit the gym during pregnancy: it prevents high blood pressure later in your baby’s life.
The even better news? The correlation between mom’s exercise habits and reduced baby blood pressure holds true even when babies have a low birth weight. And since there’s a proven link between low birth weight and high blood pressure later in life, it’s reassuring to learn mom can do something to counteract this.
“We looked at a range of normal birth weight babies, some falling at the lower end of the scale, and surprisingly we found that this lower birth weight and higher blood pressure relationship in these offspring is not supported if the women were physically active,” says lead author James Pivarnik. “The connection was disrupted, indicating that exercise may in some way alter cardiovascular risk that occurs in utero.”
To conduct the study, which is published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, researchers evaluated the physical activity — like running and walking — of 51 women over the course of five years. The biggest takeaway? Regular exercise, especially during the third trimester, was linked to lower blood pressure in children.
“This told us that exercise during critical developmental periods may have more of a direct effect on the baby,” says Pivarnik. Even by the time they were 8-10 years old, children were still reaping the benefits of mom’s exercise, demonstrating significantly lower blood pressure than other kids.