Birth weight may affect exercise and sports participation in adulthood

By Rebecca Burton • Published: May 12th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Research shows babies born with a low birth weight have a greater risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. According to a new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, some of these problems could be because low birth weight babies are less likely to lead active lives or participate in sports as they reach adolescence.

To conduct the study, researchers from the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Aging at University College London analyzed data from more than 5,300 [fifty-three-hundred] participants. Each were born during one week in March 1946. The study participants were surveyed and assessed at ages 13, 36, 43 and 53 by trained nurses and teachers in classrooms or their own homes. In 2014, at age 68, the participants completed a questionnaire.

Results showed that when compared with heavier birth weight groups, the low birth weight participants, or those born less than 5.5 pounds, were less likely to participate in physical activity during their free time as they reached adulthood. Heavier birth weight participants were also more likely to be rated by their school teacher as above average or average in sports at age 13 than the low birth weight participants.

The researchers explain that poor levels of motor skills, coordination and weaker muscle strength in low birth weight babies could explain why they are less likely to be interested in sports as they grow. Since children born with a low weight have a higher chance of survival now than in 1946, these findings can help public health officials work with those babies as they age to lead healthy lives.