WASHINGTON - Many people know that a woman’s health, including her diet and exercise habits, can impact the health of her baby even before she gets pregnant. But, until recently, little was known about a father’s diet and exercise choices.
Matthew Hurt is teaching his young sons how to hit a baseball. He wants them to enjoy sports and exercising.
“I want it to be just natural for them. I don’t want it to be a chore. I want them to just want to go outside, want to be active and enjoy life to its fullest.”
Impact of exercise
A study at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center looked at the impact of fathers’ exercise habits on their offspring.
Kristin Stanford is a member of Ohio State’s Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center. She co-led the study. The results showed that even moderate exercise before a baby was conceived “resulted in an improved metabolic health in their adult offspring. Essentially, it improved their glucose metabolism, decreased body weight and increased their insulin sensitivity.”
The World Health Organization says 1 in 4 adults worldwide are dangerously inactive. That increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
Inactivity also has social and economic consequences.
The research at Ohio State was done in mice. More work needs to be done to see if it applies to people as well.
“The idea would be that if you have a dad who wants to have a child, if they would exercise maybe just a month prior to conception, that would have a really dramatic effect on their child’s life.”
Poor diet? Just exercise
The researchers also found that exercise helped even with a poor diet. Sedentary mice fed a high fat diet passed along negative health issues like obesity and insulin resistance, but those effects were completely reversed by exercise.
“A high-fat diet, even mild high-fat diet, in this case it was only three weeks, changes the profile, but exercise kind of restored it back to normal.”
More work needs to be done to see if the same applies to humans. But in the animal studies, exercise for the male mouse was key to the health of his offspring.