Can exercise during pregnancy make your baby smarter?
Maintaining your regular exercise regime during pregnancy may do more than keep you fit. It could benefit your baby’s brain, experts say.
According to a new study, as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week during pregnancy enhances a newborn’s brain development.
“Given that exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult’s brain, we hypothesized that it could also be beneficial for the unborn child through the mother’s actions,” said study co-author Daniel Curnier, in a news release.
To test their theory, researchers recruited mothers in their second trimester of pregnancy and split them into two groups. The first group was not allowed to exercise, while the second group was told to perform at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week at a moderate intensity.
After the babies were born, researchers assessed their brain activity using an EEG (electroencephalography) brain scan. They found that the newborns from the physically active mothers were better able to process repeated sounds, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly.
The researchers will continue to evaluate the babies until they are a year old to see if these differences remain.
“We are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child’s future,” said lead researcher Dave Ellemberg, in a news release.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that healthy pregnant women exercise at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. Just make sure you listen to your body when it tells you to slow down, says Dr. Eileen Morrison, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“You should never be so out of breath that you are unable to talk or hold a conversation,” Dr. Morrison says. “And if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, stop immediately.”
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