ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, mothers who exercise late in their pregnancy may give birth to babies with a little less body fat.

Extra fat at birth could lead to weight problems into childhood and older.

“Body composition at birth is important,” Dr. Dana Dabelea, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health and the senior researcher on the study, told HealthDay News. “Two babies can be born at the same weight but have different amount of fat mass and lean mass.”

Dabelea explained in the study that a newborn’s body is composed of the internal organs, bones, and lean tissue with the baby fat coming later. She feels that if exercise during pregnancy can trim the baby fat then that could have a positive effect.

Researchers observed over 800 mother-baby pairs and found that when mothers exercised regularly in the third trimester the babies were born with less fat compared with newborns of less-active mothers.

“But we didn’t see any effect on lean mass,” Dabelea said.

Experts suggest that pregnant women get some exercise.

“That’s partly because exercise can reduce the amount of blood sugar that gets to the fetus, which cuts the risk of having a larger-than-normal baby,” Dr. Joseph Fernandez, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas told HealthDay. “There used to be some hearsay that women who exercise a lot during pregnancy will have a small baby,” Fernandez, who was not part of this study, added.

The researchers found that 25 percent of women who were most active in late pregnancy tended to have less chubby babies than other mothers.

Dabelea did say that long-term research is needed to see whether that lower fat mass at birth actually benefits the child’s health.

The findings were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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