How much physical exercise you do now will affect the learning ability of your future children
09/08/2018 // Jessica Dolores // Views

Our looks, intelligence quotient, and personality disposition are not the only things we inherit from our parents. A recent study shows that we get our capacity to learn from them as well.

A recent study by Prof. André Fischer and his team from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Goettingen and Munich and the University Medical Center Goettingen (UMG) showed a connection between physical and mental exercise, on the one hand, and the ability to bear children who learn better on the other.

When Fischer and his colleagues exposed mice to a stimulating environment which gave them the chance to exercise a lot, their offspring also benefited. The mice scored better on tests that measured learning ability. The rodents also had improved synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is essential to learning.

Synaptic plasticity shows how well nerve cells interact with each other and form the cellular basis for learning.

The researchers then analyzed the mechanism which accounts for this behavior. They extracted RNA (Ribonucleic Acid, which plays a role in gene activity) from the sperm of physically and mentally active mice. The RNA molecules were injected into fertilized egg cells. The same benefits were seen in the mice that developed. They had better synaptic plasticity and learning abilities.

This ability of parents to pass on their experiences, like physical and mental behavior to their children, is called epigenetic inheritance. RNA mediates epigenetic inheritance.

Epigenetic inheritance is at work when a pregnant woman who consumes an unhealthy diet gives birth to a sickly baby. It's also seen when babies of happy mothers smile and laugh more often. This is why expectant mothers are urged to eat healthy foods and avoid negative feelings.


Additional experiments involving injections of RNA extracts allowed scientists to pinpoint the RNA molecules which account for epigenetic inheritance. They found that two microRNA molecules -- miRNA212 and miRNA132 -- are responsible for at least some of our inherited learning abilities.

Fisher says that his team's study is a first since it links epigenetic inheritance to specific microRNAs.

Male mice also play a key role in epigenetic inheritance. The researchers revealed that miRNA212 and miRNA132 piled up in the brains and sperm of mice after they engaged in physical and mental activities. These molecules promote brain synapses and improve learning ability, benefits that are passed on to the next generation through the sperm.

Scientists believe that the above study on mice has implications in humans.

For one, it stresses the need for exercise, especially among would-be fathers and mothers. Here are some fun exercises that will not only strengthen your bond as a couple, they could also help you have smarter children someday.

  •  Alternating box jump – Facing each other, place a six-to-10-inch box between you. Take turns jumping on and off the box while squatting, making sure that you land lightly with every jump. Your partner repeats the movement after you land on the ground. You can balance yourselves by joining hands while stretching your arms. Each partner jumps 15 to 20 times for two to three sets.
  •  Biceps and triceps challenge – Stand facing your partner, around a foot apart. Bend knees a little and hold a towel in the middle with palms upright while your partner holds the ends of the towel. Complete a biceps curl as your partner creates resistance. Keep his core tight and shoulders relaxed, not hunched toward the ears. Your partner does a triceps extension while you create resistance on your way down from your biceps curl. Repeat 15 to 20 times for two to three sets.
  • Hook squats – Stand with your back against your partner and squat. Squat together and keep that position as you move clockwise and draw an imaginary circle. When you complete the circle, count to 20 and repeat the movement, this time in a counterclockwise direction. Repeat three times.

The bottom line is, exercise is not only good for you, it's also good for your future children. Now, that gives you more reason to hit the gym and catch up on workouts whenever you can.

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