Exercise boosts benefits of breast milk for babies

Young Asian pregnant woman walking in the park.

Moderate exercise during pregnancy increases a compound in breast milk that could reduce a baby’s long-term risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Researchers first studied mice born from sedentary mothers and fed them milk from mothers who were active throughout their pregnancy. They found that the health benefits from fit moms transferred to the pups, showing that the benefits were passed through breast milk and not just genetics.

They also gave 150 women who were pregnant or postpartum activity trackers. Women who had more steps per day had an increased amount of the compound known as 3SL in their breast milk, which researchers believe is beneficial to a baby’s long-term health.

Researcher say the findings, which are published in the journal Nature Metabolism, could lead to isolating the compound and adding it to formula to provide benefit for babies when women are unable to breastfeed. The study was partly-funded by NHLBI.