Researchers have found evidence that exercise during pregnancy is good not only for expectant mothers – but can also better the lung function of their offspring.
A new study of 814 babies has, for the first time, shown a link between lower lung function in babies born to physically inactive mothers compared to those born to active mothers.
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Dr Hrefna Katrin Gudmundsdottir, a pediatrician and PhD student at the University of Oslo, Norway, presented the research at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.
“Previous studies have shown that individuals with low lung function in infancy have higher risk of asthma, other obstructive lung diseases, and lower lung function later in life,” said the doctor. “Therefore, exploring factors that can be associated with lung function in infants is important.”
“If being physically active during pregnancy could reduce the risk of impaired infant lung function, it would be a simple, low-cost way to improve the respiratory health of offspring.”
“In our study, we found that babies born to inactive mothers were more likely to be in the group with the lowest lung function compared to babies born to active mothers.”
Of the 290 babies of inactive mothers, 8.6 percent (25) were in the group with the lowest lung function, and 4.2 percent (22) of the 524 babies of active mothers were in this group, making a total of only 47 babies (5.8% of all 814 babies) with low lung function. The average lung function was slightly higher among babies of active versus inactive mothers.
“We observed a trend that adds to the importance of advising women of child-bearing age and pregnant women about physical activity,” said Dr Gudmundsdottir. “However, there may be factors that affect both maternal physical activity and lung function in offspring that we have not accounted for and could affect the results and so more research is needed.”
Researchers assessed data from 814 healthy babies born to women in Oslo and Stockholm who were part of a larger group enrolled in the Preventing Atopic Dermatitis and ALLergies in Children (PreventADALL) study between December 2014 and October 2016, conducted at Oslo University Hospital and Østfold Hospital Trust, Norway, and at the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
The researchers asked the women to complete questionnaires at around 18 and 34 weeks of pregnancy about their health, lifestyle, socioeconomic factors and nutrition.
The women reported how often they exercised, for how long and at what intensity at 18 weeks and then were classified as inactive, fairly active or very active.
Lung function measurements were performed when the babies were about three months old, and was assessed by measuring normal breathing in calm, awake infants. This was done by holding a face mask over the baby’s nose and mouth, recording the flow and volume of air breathed in and out. The mask was attached to measuring equipment and as
The researchers will be following the babies as they grow to see how lung function progresses and how it relates to development of respiratory diseases, such as asthma.