Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin J. Pearson

Second Advisor

Dr. Nancy Webb


Maternal lifestyle and nutrient intake during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on the health of offspring as well as the mother. This dissertation focuses on the impact of maternal exercise during pregnancy on offspring insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake and the maternal effects of exercise during pregnancy.

The first aim of this dissertation was to investigate if exercise prior to and during pregnancy and nursing would improve glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity in mice and rats. In both mice and rats, it was concluded that maternal exercise could enhance whole-body insulin sensitivity and increase glucose uptake into skeletal muscle and adipose tissue in adult offspring compared with offspring from sedentary dams. Maternal exercise also positively influenced male but not female adult offspring body composition; male offspring from exercised dams had significantly decreased fat mass and increased lean mass compared with offspring from sedentary dams.

The second aim of this dissertation was to test whether exercise during pregnancy would improve glucose disposal in mouse dams with diet-induced obesity. Maternal running was effective in reducing fat mass accumulation and glucose intolerance associated with high fat feeding during pregnancy. In high fat diet mice, exercise was also able to improve insulin sensitivity in adipose tissue compared to tissue from sedentary high fat diet mice.

The findings in this dissertation provide new insight into the long-term effects exercise during pregnancy can have on offspring health. Women may be encouraged to start an exercise regimen before and during their pregnancy if they are aware of the life-long benefits it can have for their children. The findings from the second aim present new insight into how exercise can affect pregnancies complicated by maternal obesity and glucose intolerance, and the animal model can be used in the future studies to investigate the offspring effects of maternal exercise during a diabetic pregnancy.