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Exercise During Pregnancy Strengthens Arteries in Children

Update Date: Oct 24, 2013 05:36 PM EDT
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Women who exercise during pregnancy may improve their children's vascular health, according to a new study.

Researchers found that expectant mothers can influence vascular health in children by hitting the gym during pregnancy.

Researchers say latest findings show that maternal exercise during pregnancy is can help strengthen the arteries of unborn babies and protect them against cardiovascular disease into their adulthood.

"Our study was the first to demonstrate that maternal exercise during pregnancy significantly impacts vascular function in adult offspring," Dr. Sean Newcomer, of California State University San Marcos said in a news release.

"A second important aspect of the findings in our study is that previous research identified the endothelium, which is the single-cell layer lining all blood vessels, to be susceptible to fetal-programming interventions. Contrarily, we show that the vascular smooth muscle was significantly altered in adult offspring from exercise trained mothers," Newcomer added.

The study, which looked at pigs' responses to physical activity, had pregnant sows exercise for 20 to 45 minutes for five says a week. Researchers explained that pigs are great animal models for cardiovascular studies because they have human-like responses to physical activity and can be trained to complete exercise regimens.

"We are only starting to understand how exercise during gestation influences offspring adult health and disease. Results like ours may help to create guidelines enabling women to make the best decisions for them and their children by providing evidence based health choices," Newcomer said in a news release.

"Physical activity may act through multiple pathways which depend on type, duration, intensity and frequency of the exercise regimen. Furthermore, it is essential that future research investigates the coronary circulation and also establishes what impact these reported changes in vascular function in the offspring have on cardiovascular disease susceptibility," he concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Experimental Physiology.

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