A daily walk while pregnant is 'good for the baby' as it could boost production of a compound in breast milk that helps to stave off obesity and diabetes in the infant.
Scientists from Ohio State University studied 150 pregnant women and new mums using fitness trackers to find out how much activity was needed to have an impact.
They found that even moderate exercise was enough to boost 3SL - a breast milk compound which is linked to reducing a baby's risk of serious health issues.
The team say this compound could even be added to formula to provide the same health boosting benefits to babies whose mums are not able to breastfeed.
Lead study author Dr Kristin Stanford, from Ohio State University said previous studies have shown maternal exercise can improve the health of their children.
For this study they wanted to find out why that worked and started with the assumption it was passed on in breast milk rather than in their genes.
'Because there is evidence that breast milk plays a major role, we wanted to isolate the effects of breast milk on offspring health,' said Stanford.
The team started by studying mice born from inactive mothers and fed them milk from mums who were active throughout pregnancy.
They found the health benefits from fit mums transferred to the pups, proving that they were in fact passed through breast milk and not simply inherited genetic traits.
Researchers also followed around 150 pregnant women and postpartum mums using activity trackers and measured the level of 3SL in their breast milk.
They found those who completed more steps had more 3SL in their breast milk, which they believe is responsible for these health benefits.
'The increases in 3SL were not necessarily related to exercise intensity, so even moderate exercise like a daily walk is enough to reap the benefits,' Stanford said.
'Exercise is also great for your overall health during and after pregnancy, so anything you can do to get moving is going to benefit both you and your baby.'
Mothers pass a lot of traits on to their babies, including negative, positive and neutral traits - not just through genetics but also through their milk.
Many women are unable to breastfeed or experience complications that require bed rest, so the team are now looking at ways this could be added to formula.
Dr Stanford said the human milk oligosaccharide - the 3SL compound - had a significant impact on an infants health.
'Being able to add this into formula could provide benefits for babies when women aren't able to breastfeed,' she said.
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