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Exercise during Pregnancy May Reduce Markers of Aging in Offspring

Oxidative stress and inflammation were reduced in mouse studies

Phoenix (November 4, 2016)—Exercise during pregnancy may be as effective in protecting the next generation from age-related health risks as efforts made during the offspring’s own adulthood, new research suggests. Kevin Pearson, associate professor at the University of Kentucky Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, will present preliminary findings on the long-term effects of physical activity during pregnancy at the American Physiological Society’s Integrative Biology of Exercise 7 meeting in Phoenix.

Oxidative stress is damage to the body caused by an accumulation of unstable molecules called free radicals. The buildup of free radicals decreases resistance to stress and increases the risk of obesity and age-related and chronic disease. Reducing oxidative stress can help lessen the risks of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The research team examined markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin sensitivity in mice that were born to mothers who were exercised while pregnant. The offspring of the exercised mice had better stress resistance and improved insulin sensitivity, even into adulthood, than those born to sedentary mothers.

“To date, caloric restriction has been the most reproducible and promising intervention to improve these outcomes. An intense and expanding area of research is focused on discovering other short-term or easily achievable interventions that can have long-lasting beneficial effects,” the researchers wrote.

The results of the rodent studies also have implications for human health. “Our findings highlight pregnancy as a sensitive period when positive lifestyle interventions could have significant and long-lasting beneficial effects on offspring metabolism and disease risk,” wrote the research team.

Pearson will present “Exercise during Pregnancy and Long-Term Impact on Offspring Health” as part of the symposium “Activity/Exercise during Pregnancy and Early Development: Implications for Long-Term Health” on Friday, Nov. 4, from 8:30 to 10:45 a.m. in the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, Regency Ballroom AB.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The Integrative Biology of Exercise 7 meeting will be held in Phoenix, Nov. 2–4, 2016. Read the full program. To schedule an interview with the conference organizers or presenters, contact the APS Communications Office or call 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.