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Extra pregnancy weight sharply increases child's risk of obesity

Pregnant women who gain more weight than recommended, do not exercise or smoke during pregnancy, sharply increase the probability that her child will be overweight or obese at the age of eight, new research reveals. 

A new study conducted in collaboration between The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), USA, and Harokopio University, Greece, found that moderate exercise during pregnancy was found to lower the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese in childhood, even after adjusting for the other maternal and child characteristics.

The NHS currently recommends that women can keep up the exercise regime they had before pregnancy, for as long as it feels comfortable, but to avoid contact sports like kick boxing, scuba diving, exercise at 2,500m above sea level, and exercises where you lie flat on your back, particularly after 16 weeks.

"Pregnancy is a phase in a woman's life in which she develops a greater awareness about her health and has an important opportunity to amend some unhealthy habits, like smoking and alcohol consumption, to adopt a more active lifestyle, and to participate in physical activities and/or exercise," said Labros Sidossis, professor of Internal Medicine and Surgery at UTMB.

"Health care professionals should advise expecting mothers to limit their pregnancy weight gain to the recommended range, not to smoke and consume alcohol and to engage in moderate exercise during pregnancy."

The government currently recommends that over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more - one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least five days a week.

The number of overweight children is expected to increase by 1.3 million per year worldwide, with more than 300,000 of those children becoming obese each year, the report states.