As an obese woman, I felt it was important that I exercise during my pregnancy. New research suggests I was right.


  • I was at the gym until delivery with my now two-year-old, because I suspected that exercise would keep us both at our healthiest.
  • New researcher suggests that when obese moms exercise during pregnancy, it can impact their childrens’ DNA.
  • Researchers will study the exact impact of the epigenetic changes in the future.

It was my due date with my second child, and I was laying on my back, legs lifted into the air.

I wasn’t in the hospital delivering. I was at the gym, completing what I could of a TRX class that I’d been attending throughout my pregnancy.

“See you Thursday,” the instructor said as everyone rolled up their mats and began filtering out of the studio.
“Hopefully not!” I replied.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve loved going to the gym. Being active has huge health benefits, and in my case I feel it’s particularly important. I’m obese, and probably always will be. Although I’d be a prime candidate for surviving a famine, my genes aren’t quite a fit with modern life, where movement is limited and snacks are not.

So I work out, not just for the mental health benefits, but for the physical benefits too. During pregnancy, that became even more important to me.Advertisement


With my first child, I stopped going to the gym around 25 weeks, when my growing belly became more of a hindrance. Although I stayed active with walks and hikes until my baby was born, I dealt with high blood pressure at the end of my pregnancy and eventually needed to be induced.
When I was pregnant with my second, I was determined to stay as healthy as possible. I was already in a solid gym routine before I got pregnant, and I was able to work with a female trainer at the gym who knew my fitness level and could guide me on necessary adjustments. Mostly, she just reassured me that working out through pregnancy was safe and beneficial for me and the baby.
I sailed through my second pregnancy with healthy blood sugar and blood pressure. When my daughter was born with two pushes and no pain medication, I was thankful for all the hours I’d spent in the gym.

Working out during pregnancy may change a baby’s DNA

During both of my pregnancies I knew intuitively that working out would be important. I hoped that I could set my babies up for the healthiest possible start, especially given my genetic predisposition to obesity.

New research indicates that I was on the right track. Scientists in the UK followed 550 pregnant women who were obese; some of the women exercised and received nutritional counseling throughout pregnancy, while others did not. They found that women who exercised gained less weight and had healthier metabolism.

Then, the researchers looked at how infants were affected. While our genes are set, the environment can affect how genes are expressed — this is known as epigenetics. Researchers found that one epigenetic marker — DNA methylation — was changed in babies whose moms exercised and ate healthy.

Lead study author Lucilla Poston said that the epigenetic changes may have a long-term impact on the children’s health.

“We have known for some time that children of mothers who had gestational diabetes are a greater risk of obesity and poor control of glucose; this new research implies that epigenetic pathways could be involved,” she said in a press release.

In future research, the scientists will try to determine exactly what those epigenetic differences mean for health.
“These findings suggest that improvements to diet and physical activity can have an impact on the development of their children,” said Karen Lillycrop, Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Southampton, in the press release. “These are very encouraging finding[s] and further studies are now needed to establish whether reducing these epigenetic changes through a healthier lifestyle during pregnancy are accompanied by improved health outcomes for the children in later life.”

The importance of family fitness

Today, my daughters are two and six. They’re both active and healthy. I can’t say whether that’s because I worked out during my pregnancy, or because we’re constantly going on active adventures like hikes and bike rides together.

I do know that no matter what body types my daughters have, it’s important that they nurture their bodies through exercise and movement, not for looks, but for the health benefits it will bring them.

Read more:

HIIT workouts are linked to better mental health and longer, healthier lives, according to a new study
A gym trainer exposed 50 athletes to COVID-19, but no one got sick — because one member is a ventilation expert who redesigned the room’s layout

People who take multivitamins say they feel healthier, but it may just be a placebo effect, a study found



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