The number of children with overweight or obesity—especially among kids younger than 6—is rising in modern societies. Being overweight before preschool increases the likelihood that children will develop obesity as they grow older.

Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environ┬¡mental Research in Leipzig, Germany, conducted a longitudinal analysis of data on 498 mother–child pairs, from pregnancy through birth and on through each child’s first 5 years. Each pair’s data included the child’s biometrics and the mother’s perceived and actual stressors during pregnancy and the child’s first 2 years.

Data analysis showed a strong association between mothers’ perceived stress levels and the development of childhood overweight in girls. The association was true only for females. Study authors recommended finding ways of reducing mental stress in mothers to help lower childhood obesity risks.

These findings support encouraging women to participate in physical activity programs during pregnancy, since exercise training is beneficial and safe, and it reduces maternal stress during prenatal and postpartum periods.

The study is available in BMC Public Health (2018; doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6110-5).

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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