NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Could a dad’s lifestyle impact the lifelong health of his child, even before the child is born?

A surprising new study suggests that the diet and exercise habits of a soon-to-be father could affect his children for life, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.

Matthew Hurt said he tries to stay active, and wants to instill the same healthy habits in his 5-year-old son.

“I want it to be just natural for them. I don’t want it to be a chore. I want them to just want to go outside, want to be active and enjoy life to its fullest,” Hurt said.

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

What Matthew didn’t know was that his active lifestyle may have given his children a head start on their health even before they were born. A new study suggests that when a father exercises prior to conception, even at a moderate level, it has lifelong benefits for his child.

“That resulted in an improved metabolic health in their adult offspring. Essentially, it improved their glucose metabolism, decreased body weight and increased their insulin sensitivity,” said Dr. Kristin Stanford of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

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Researchers studied groups of male mice and found that exercise improved the metabolic health of both male and female offspring through adulthood.

“The idea would be that if you have a dad who wants to have a child, if they could exercise maybe just a month prior to conception, that would have a really dramatic effect on their child’s life,” Dr. Stanford said.

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Researchers also found that exercise helped even with a poor diet. Sedentary mice fed a high-fat diet passed along negative health issues such as obesity and insulin resistance. But when they examined certain genetic markers, they were surprised to find that the negative effects of a high-fat diet were completely reversed by exercise.

“A high-fat diet, even mild high-fat diet in this case, it was only three weeks, changes the profile, but exercise kind of restored it back to normal,” Dr. Stanford said.

Now this does not mean that dad’s can eat a bunch of junk food and jog around the block and everything will be better. And while what happens with mice isn’t always true for humans, this is one of those no-downside changes a dad-to-be can make that could improve the health of his child for life.