According to a study published in the journal Experimental Physiology, exercises carried out by the mother during pregnancy can prevent cardiovascular disease in offspring in adulthood. The researchers observed that physical activity performed by a pregnant woman can alter vascular smooth muscle, in other words it can have beneficial effects on vascular health in offspring. Although guidelines recommend that pregnant women to exercise 30 minutes almost every day of the week, however, doctors are not very confident of the effects of physical activity on pregnant women and their offsprings.
According to researchers, physical activity may act through several mechanisms depending on the duration, intensity and frequency of exercise. The study published in the journal Experimental Physiology shows that physical activity performed by the mother during pregnancy is a strong stimulus for programming arteries in the fetus and this would influence the susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. It must be mentioned that there have been similar previous studies but these studies have investigated the effects on offspring at a young age while the present study is the first of its kind to analyze the effects of physical activity on offspring in adulthood.
Dr Sean Newcomer, of California State University San Marcos USA, and Dr Bahls, of Universit Greifswald Germany, explained that an important aspect revealed by the study is that vascular smooth muscle may be modified during embryonic development, in contrast to previous studies which found that the endothelium may be altered by fetal – programming interventions.
Researchers experimented on pigs because they that have human-like response to physical activity. They put each pregnant swine to treadmill for 20-45 minutes 5 days a week as this training program meets the guidelines set by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ( ACOG ). Then researchers used in vitro techniques to assess the femoral artery vascular function in offspring.
It should be noted that future research is needed to better understand the mechanisms by which physical activity during pregnancy benefits the offspring in adulthood. Drs Newcomer and Bahls said they now only begin to understand why exercise during pregnancy influence the health of offspring and susceptibility to certain diseases. The researchers added that the study results help to formulate guidelines for pregnant women to take the best decisions for themselves and their children. “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,” researchers said.