Born to Be Active?

Madeline Baker

Article Summary

Gretchen Reynolds, a blogger for The New York Times, wrote “Does Exercise During Pregnancy Lead to Exercise-Loving Offspring?” The article was published April 6, 2016 at 5:30 am.

Recently, it has been indicated by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University in Houston that mice who are born to active mothers while pregnant are more active as they mature than mice born to mothers who were inactive while pregnant. These scientists believe that although humans and mice are different, that there could be a possible link between human mothers who exercise during pregnancy and their children being more active throughout life.

The scientists started the study with genetically identical female mice and then mated them with male mice that were also genetically identical. They only let half of the pregnant mice use their running wheels while the other half had their wheels locked. When the mice's pups were born, they were removed from their mother’s cage and put in their own. This way, the mice would not be influenced by their mother's activity. At first, the pups whose mothers were active and the pups whose mothers were not, were at the same activity level. But, as they grew older, the pups born to active mothers were significantly more enthusiastic about running and these behaviors accelerated throughout their lifespan.

Although it is obvious that parents who promote and practice a healthy lifestyle, tend to have a strong influence on their child’s activity, the scientists showed that there may be many biological influences that also affect an offspring’s activity level.

Parts of DNA have been identified that predispose someone to a more active lifestyle. But, scientists have also been wondering if there is a type of developmental programming that leads to more willingness towards working out.

Article Critique

I found the article, "Does Exercise During Pregnancy Lead to Exercise-Loving Offspring?" under the health category on The New York Times’ web page. Gretchen Reynolds has been writing about health and wellness for over a decade, working for well-known magazines and newspapers such as Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, The Oprah Magazine, and Women’s Health. She also has a National Magazine Award for her stories featured in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. I enjoyed Reynolds writing because she described the process of the mouse study in great detail and made sure to explain each step clearly. The article was interesting and easy to understand.

Robert Waterland, a professor of pediatrics and genetics at Baylor University, conducted the mouse study along with his colleagues Jesse Eclarinal and Shaoyu Zhu. The conclusion of the study was that “a mother’s physical activity during pregnancy most likely affects the physical activity of her offspring.”

A few other possible reasons, stated by Dr. Waterland, about why the offspring of an active mother may be more active throughout life include the possibility that a pregnant mother’s movement while working out could jiggle the womb in ways that would alter fetal brain development, especially in areas devoted to motor control and behavior. He also stated that possible biochemicals that are produced and passed through the placenta while a mother works out could affect a baby’s physiology and geneology.

Although the results of this study seems so evident, it was conducted on mice and not humans, therefore it cannot be said whether or not it is clear that a human mother’s physical exercise influences her offspring… YET! Dr. Waterland and his colleagues hope to be able to study this issue in the future.

In conclusion, Reynold’s article is a well-written, clear, and interesting article with many thought provoking ideas and hopes that an active pregnant mother may actually promote an active, healthy offspring.