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Fit fathers produce mentally healthier children: study

SYDNEY, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Fit fathers could be boosting the mental health of their unborn children, said an Australian research released on Wednesday.

The study, published by the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, found that physically active male mice had male offspring that were better at coping with fear.

Furthermore, male mice which were stressed before conception were more likely to produce anxious and depressed children.

In the study, male mice were put through a four-week "bootcamp" mated with inactive females.

Brains of the offspring produced were compared with those who had inactive mothers and fathers.

"Our most striking findings was that the male offspring of running mice were better at suppressing bad memories as juveniles, and had lower anxiety levels as adults than male offspring of sedentary fathers," Lead researcher Anthony Hannan said in a media release Wednesday.

"In contrast, female offspring of fit fathers showed no differences to the female offspring of sedentary fathers."

The study has indicated to researchers that the lifestyle and environment of a child's father is more influential than previously thought.

Hannan said the team would now focus on studying epigenetics, how genes interact with the environment to better understand the phenomenon.

"It's not just about the child's genes or the woman's health that's important to their offspring, it's potentially also the man's health before conception as the information in the sperm may reflect the lifestyle of the father," Hannan told News Limited.

"This has huge public health implications. We seem to have epidemics of chronic high levels of stress in society, sedentary behaviors, lack of exercise and poor diets."


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