Research from the laboratories of Professor Sue Ozanne and Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri shows that exercise immediately prior to and during pregnancy restores key tissues in the body, making obese mice better able to manage blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of long term health problems.
A moderate level of exercise immediately before and then during pregnancy leads to important changes in different tissues of the obese mother, effectively making the tissues more like those seen in non-obese mothers.
says Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri.
We believe these changes may explain how exercise improves the metabolism of the obese mother during pregnancy and, in turn, may prevent her babies from developing early signs of type 2 diabetes after birth.
Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the risk of complications in the mother, such as gestational diabetes, and predisposes both her and her infant to develop metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Exercise is known to improve how the body manages blood sugar levels and thereby reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It also helps prevent excessive gestational weight gain and the development of gestational diabetes, and the need for insulin use in women who have already developed gestational diabetes. However, little is known about the changes that exercise causes to the tissues of obese pregnant mother.
Mice were fed a sugary, high fat diet so that they become obese and were exercised on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for at least a week before their pregnancy and then for 12.5 minutes a day until day 17 of the pregnancy (pregnancy lasts for around 20 days in mice). Researchers found that beneficial effects of exercise on metabolic health in the obese mothers related to changes in how molecules and cells communicate in maternal tissues during pregnancy. Exercise affected signalling pathways involved in responding to insulin, in storage and breakdown of lipids and in growth and the synthesis of proteins.
Mice are a useful model for understanding human metabolic changes because of our common characteristics.
Our findings reinforce the importance of having an active lifestyle and eating a healthy balanced diet when planning pregnancy and throughout for both the mother and her developing child. This can be important in helping to reduce the risk of adverse health problems in the mother and of later health problems for her child.
Professor Susan Ozanne.
The research paper is also available online: Musial, B et al. Exercise alters the molecular pathways of insulin signalling and lipid handling in maternal tissues of obese pregnant mice. Physiological Reports; 28 August 2019; DOI: 10.14814/phy2.14202