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Table of Contents
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 741-743

Does being born low birth weight affect the ability to exercise?

1 Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Unit-1, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of International Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Date of Web Publication24-Oct-2016

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Nihal Thomas
Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Unit-1, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.192920

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How to cite this article:
Thomas N, Bygbjerg I B. Does being born low birth weight affect the ability to exercise?. Indian J Endocr Metab 2016;20:741-3

How to cite this URL:
Thomas N, Bygbjerg I B. Does being born low birth weight affect the ability to exercise?. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 Jul 25];20:741-3. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2016/20/6/741/192920

The prevalence of low birth weight (LBW) in rural and urban areas of India was found to be 26% and 30%, respectively, in a recent study.[1] LBW as well as obesity are risk factors for the development of diabetes mellitus (DM), with the thrifty phenotype as a background.[2]

Physical inactivity as well as DM appear to be hyper-endemic problems in India. In a recent study,[3] it was found that <10% of Asian Indians, living in India, perform any kind of physical exercise. Indian are inactive, which further enhances the risk of obesity, DM, and cardiac diseases. In three states across India, including Tamil Nadu, which altogether have a combined population of 213 million, researchers found that 54.4% of the population was physically inactive. As a rule, men were more active than women and people in rural areas were physically more active than their urban counterparts. Most participants mentioned that they spend their leisure time watching television. The publication estimated that 392 million people in India are inactive and that participants averaged around 19 min of exercise a day.

A smaller study among a South Asian population has shown that there are attitude problems with regard to exercise and the perceptions of them being good for health.[4] The obstacles encountered in this study included meager knowledge with regard to the benefits of exercise and negative cultural perceptions about physical activity.

With the thrifty phenotype as a background, are those who were born LBW likely to have a favorable response to physical activity? Cross-sectional data from adolescents involving the study of physical activity patterns and their impact on LBW patients from European cross-sectional databases [5] revealed that the physically more active had an attenuation of their insulin resistance (IR) despite being born LBW. In another cohort study, patients born LBW with glucose intolerance were found to be protected from subsequent DM if they had more physical activity.[6]

In the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study,[7] older men were studied with regard to the impact of physical activity depending on their birth weight. It was found that those who were born LBW were subsequently more prone for the negative aspects of the metabolic syndrome. The arguments that have been mentioned above suggest that the responsiveness to physical activity in LBW and it's negative impact on prediabetes and DM is inconclusive.

However, conversely, are people who are born LBW less likely to be physically active? Although animal models suggest that this is the case, from a human perspective, a meta-analysis of four studies [8] suggests that humans who are born LBW do not have an intrinsic propensity to exercise less and are capable of reasonable physical activity. Very LBW people have been found to have a lower time of participation in exercise, lower frequency, and lower consumption of baseline energy expenditure. In addition, they participate in less leisure time physical activity.[9],[10]

Bicycles are a common form of transport worldwide. They are cheap and easily available and when used appropriately, they are a good source for exercise and promote mitochondrial biogenesis.[11]

Indeed, more recent studies have established quite clearly that in India, the mode of transport commonly used correlates with the components of the metabolic syndrome and the coronary risk factors [12] and that walking and bicycling are highly conducive to a substantially healthy metabolic profile.

There has not been any interventional study with controls of bicycle-based exercise in patients who are born LBW before we published a study in 2015.[13] It seemed to be a logical method which if found to be successful in such a population, may be potentially translated into a public health program.

In this study,[14] we assessed the impact of an outdoor exercise intervention on body composition, insulin secretion (IS), and action in young men born with LBW and normal birth weight (NBW) controls in rural India.

Sixty-one LBW and 56 NBW healthy young men were recruited for the study. The participants were instructed to perform outdoor bicycle exercise training for 45 min every day. Fasting blood samples, intravenous glucose tolerance tests, and bioimpedance body composition assessment were performed.[14] Physical activity was measured using combined accelerometry and heart rate monitoring during the first and the last weeks of the intervention.

Following the exercise intervention, the LBW participants displayed an increase in physical fitness, level, and total fat-free mass. After intervention, fasting plasma insulin levels, homeostatic model assessment-IS (HOMA-IS) as well as HOMA-IR improved to the same extent in both groups. The study [13] indicated that even a relatively moderate duration of intervention had a significant impact on the body composition of the participants. The monitoring of the physical activity and bicycling patterns of the participants were relatively simple, using social workers and patient diaries. To monitor physical activity more intensively with a pedometer or an accelerometer might have been more accurate, though these methods may have limitations as well [15] and would never reflect “real life” situations, which was an important aspect of our studies. The humid environments during a greater part of the year precluded the proper contact of the Actiheart device (used to measure heart rate and total energy expenditure)[16] on the participants' chest wall in many situations, and an adequate quantum of data was not available as a result for analysis of the Actiheart output.[17] The strength of the study is that it was reality based, considering that bicycle utilization is still fairly common in rural India, hence making it a potentially practical intervention for those who are born LBW.

In summary, while the thrifty phenotype is responsible for postnatal changes that could affect growth,[18] it can be metabolically unfavorable.[19],[20] LBW remains prevalent in India, it is reassuring that exercise may help in preventing the negative long-term effects that may occur in these participants.[5],[6],[7],[8],[13]

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Bhilwar M, Upadhyay RP, Yadav K, Kumar R, Chinnakali P, Sinha S, et al. Estimating the burden of “weighing less”: A systematic review and meta-analysis of low birth-weight in India. Natl Med J India 2016;29:73-81.  Back to cited text no. 1
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Anjana RM, Pradeepa R, Das AK, Deepa M, Bhansali A, Joshi SR, et al. Physical activity and inactivity patterns in India – Results from the ICMR-INDIAB study (Phase-1) [ICMR-INDIAB-5]. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2014;11:26.  Back to cited text no. 3
Lawton J, Ahmad N, Hanna L, Douglas M, Hallowell N. “I can't do any serious exercise”: Barriers to physical activity amongst people of Pakistani and Indian origin with type 2 diabetes. Health Educ Res 2006;21:43-54.  Back to cited text no. 4
Ortega FB, Ruiz JR, Hurtig-Wennlöf A, Meirhaeghe A, González-Gross M, Moreno LA, et al. Physical activity attenuates the effect of low birth weight on insulin resistance in adolescents: Findings from two observational studies. Diabetes 2011;60:2295-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Eriksson JG, Ylihärsilä H, Forsén T, Osmond C, Barker DJ. Exercise protects against glucose intolerance in individuals with a small body size at birth. Prev Med 2004;39:164-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
Laaksonen DE, Lakka HM, Lynch J, Lakka TA, Niskanen L, Rauramaa R, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness and vigorous leisure-time physical activity modify the association of small size at birth with the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Care 2003;26:2156-64.  Back to cited text no. 7
Ridgway CL, Brage S, Sharp SJ, Corder K, Westgate KL, van Sluijs EM, et al. Does birth weight influence physical activity in youth? A combined analysis of four studies using objectively measured physical activity. PLoS One 2011;6:e16125.  Back to cited text no. 8
Kaseva N, Wehkalampi K, Strang-Karlsson S, Salonen M, Pesonen AK, Räikkönen K, et al. Lower conditioning leisure-time physical activity in young adults born preterm at very low birth weight. PLoS One 2012;7:e32430.  Back to cited text no. 9
Kajantie E, Strang-Karlsson S, Hovi P, Räikkönen K, Pesonen AK, Heinonen K, et al. Adults born at very low birth weight exercise less than their peers born at term. J Pediatr 2010;157:610-6, 616.e1.  Back to cited text no. 10
Dumke CL, Mark Davis J, Angela Murphy E, Nieman DC, Carmichael MD, Quindry JC, et al. Successive bouts of cycling stimulates genes associated with mitochondrial biogenesis. Eur J Appl Physiol 2009;107:419-27.  Back to cited text no. 11
Millett C, Agrawal S, Sullivan R, Vaz M, Kurpad A, Bharathi AV, et al. Indian Migration Study group. Associations between active travel to work and overweight, hypertension, and diabetes in India: A cross-sectional study. PLoS Med 2013;10:1-12.  Back to cited text no. 12
Madsen C, Mogensen P, Thomas N, Christensen DL, Bygbjerg IC, Mohan V, et al. Effects of an outdoor bicycle-based intervention in healthy rural Indian men with normal and low birth weight. J Dev Orig Health Dis 2015;6:27-37.  Back to cited text no. 13
Thomas N, Grunnet LG, Poulsen P, Christopher S, Spurgeon R, Inbakumari M, et al. Born with low birth weight in rural Southern India: What are the metabolic consequences 20 years later? Eur J Endocrinol 2012;166:647-55.  Back to cited text no. 14
Trost SG. Objective measurement of physical activity in youth: Current issues, future directions. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2001;29:32-6.  Back to cited text no. 15
Brage S, Brage N, Franks PW, Ekelund U, Wong MY, Andersen LB, et al. Branched equation modeling of simultaneous accelerometry and heart rate monitoring improves estimate of directly measured physical activity energy expenditure. J Appl Physiol 2004;96:343-51.  Back to cited text no. 16
Brage S, Brage N, Franks PW, Ekelund U, Wareham NJ. Reliability and validity of the combined heart rate and movement sensor Actiheart. Eur J Clin Nutr 2005;59:561-70.  Back to cited text no. 17
Lakshmanudu M, Venkatalakshmi V, Rao PS. Growth of South Indian children during 6-12 years of age in relation to birthweight and gestational age. Indian Pediatr 1988;25:237-43.  Back to cited text no. 18
Hales CN, Barker DJ. The thrifty phenotype hypothesis. Br Med Bull 2001;60:5-20.  Back to cited text no. 19
Rasmussen EL, Malis C, Jensen CB, Jensen JE, Storgaard H, Poulsen P, et al. Altered fat tissue distribution in young adult men who had low birth weight. Diabetes Care 2005;28:151-3.  Back to cited text no. 20

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