Moms-to-be: Do not give up your running shoes.
New research in mice suggests that exercise—more than any other factor tested—helps prevent heart defects in infants.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine recently ran pregnant mice through a gamut of tests, trying to figure out whether age, nutrition or exercise served as the biggest determinant of a baby’s heart health.
All of the mice were genetically predisposed to bearing offspring with heart defects. But the mouse moms who ran in an exercise wheel before and during pregnancy had the fewest babies with heart problems.
The heart is the first organ to develop in a fetus. For reasons unknown, that development can sometimes go awry, leading to congenital heart defects affecting as many as 1 in 100 babies.
To be sure, human pregnancies are not mice pregnancies; nevertheless, the research is noteworthy.
Dr. Patrick Y. Jay, an associate professor of pediatrics and genetics at Washington University, told The New York Times that he would recommend exercise to pregnant women and those who wish to become pregnant. “There are so many potential health benefits” for both mother and developing child, he says, and few known downsides.
Consult your doctor, of course, as you develop your maternal exercise plan.