You may not realize this, but there's a lot you can do to affect your child's development even before conception — way before, actually. Your behaviors and habits have a long-lasting impact on your health, which in turn can impact your future children. In fact, as one example, men who exercise regularly could boost their child's health before their kid is born, according to new research. And it's a pretty significant impact.
A new animal study published in the journal Diabetes found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreased in offspring whose fathers worked out regularly before conception, according to ABC News. In particular, researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center fed male mice either a regular diet or high-fat diet for three weeks, and discovered that pups from those male mice who exercised had improved glucose metabolism, lowered body weight, and decreased fat mass, the study's findings show.
What's more, researchers learned that the difference in diet didn't seem to matter as much as expected. Offspring born to physically active mice that ate high-fat diets saw the same beneficial health effects as those who were sired by physically active mice on regular diets, ABC News reported.
Lead researcher Kristin Stanford, a physiology and cell biology researcher with The Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, said in a news release, according to MedicalXpress:
Here's what's really interesting; offspring from the dads fed a high-fat diet fared worse, so they were more glucose intolerant. But exercise negated that effect.
But this is not the first study to find a link between a man exercising regularly prior to conception and the impact on their child's long-term health. Another mice study published earlier this year in the journal Cell Reports discovered that pups born to mice who exercised regularly had stronger neural connections in the brain, according to The New York Times. In other words, a dad's gym habits can help boost a baby's brain power, the study showed.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that, although the benefits of exercise have been proven time and again through research, that doesn't mean everybody — or every body — is able to work out regularly, if at all. A variety of factors, from different physical and mental abilities to tough schedules that leave little room for recreation, can make working out inaccessible to people.
And, despite misinformed opinion, putting on a free YouTube video won't actually knock down many of those barriers. After all, not everyone owns a computer, and you can't really break out your yoga moves in the middle of the library.
So if you're not able to work out regularly or at all, please do not feel you're failing the children you have or plan to have. This Ohio State study suggests only one way that parents and parents-to-be can help boost their kid's health, but it is not the only way — by far.
As Parents reported, you can improve your child's health by serving more fruits and vegetables, making sure they get enough shut-eye, and paying careful attention to proper hygiene. But that's not all: Something as simple as encouraging more exposure to sunlight — whether that's by planting veggies in a kiddo garden or reading a comic book in the backyard — can help your little one avoid vitamin D deficiency, which impacts their immune system and bone development, according to SheKnows.
Every parent wants to make sure their child grows up healthy and strong. And as this study shows, that begins with you taking care of your health, even before you may think about having a kid. But there are other ways to help boost your child's development beyond exercise because, in the end, staying healthy requires a combination of behaviors and habits, not just one.