Are some of us born to run? Science says "yes." A new study has suggested that love of exercise actually starts in the womb itself.
Baylor College of Medicine researchers have discovered that female mice that voluntarily exercise during pregnancy have offspring that are more physically active as adults.
Senior author Dr. Robert A. Waterland noted that although their research studied mice, "several human studies have reported results consistent with ours."
"Our study in a mouse model is important because we can take all those effects out of the equation. We studied genetically identical mice and carefully controlled the amount of physical activity of the mothers before pregnancy," said Waterland.
The Baylor team found that the mice born to mothers that exercised during pregnancy were about 50 percent more physically active than those born to mothers who did not exercise. Importantly, their increased activity persisted into later adulthood, and even improved their ability to lose fat during a three-week voluntary exercise program.
This study supports the idea that movement during pregnancy influences fetal brain development, making the offspring tend to be more physically active throughout life.
Although most people assume that an individual's tendency to be physical active is determined by genetics, these results clearly show that the environment can play an important role during fetal development, added Waterland.
If a similar effect can be confirmed in people, it could represent an effective strategy to counteract the current worldwide epidemic of physical inactivity and obesity.