Exercise During Pregnancy May Improve Your Baby’s Brain

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Exercise during pregnancy

If you ever needed more motivation to exercise, here it is: a recent study shows that exercise during pregnancy increases the development of your baby’s brain! We know that exercise provides a range of benefits for women during pregnancy and this new research shows it is even more beneficial than we thought.

In the study, women at the start of the second trimester were assigned to one of two groups: 1) to remain inactive during their second semester or 2) to start an exercise program. Women assigned to the exercise program worked out for a minimum of 20 minutes, three times per week, at a level which should have resulted in a slight shortness of breath.2

Between 8 to 12 days after birth, the general brain activity of the newborns was measured with a test that records electrical pulses. The ability to tell the difference between different sounds and to remember the sounds was also tested by exposing the baby to different pitches of sound while sleeping in their mother’s lap. Different reactions to different sounds confirmed a baby’s ability to tell the difference between the sounds. How well babies remembered sounds was measured by how the baby responded to new and repeated sounds.2

The researchers found that the babies of the mothers who had exercised regularly were much better at learning  than the babies of the mothers who remained sedentary.Lead researcher Elise Labonte-LeMoyne commented, “Our results show that the babies born from mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting their brains developed more rapidly“.3

What type of cardiovascular exercises/sports are safe during pregnancy?
There are many options out there for keeping active and healthy while pregnant. In general, try not to exert yourself too much, you should be able to talk normally during exercise, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

  • Running: If you were already regularly running before your pregnancy, you can continue once pregnant. However, women who would like to start a running program while pregnant should discuss this with their healthcare provider. If you do run, make sure that you don’t overheat, you wear supportive shock-absorbing footwear, and you are well-hydrated.4
  • Biking is an excellent form of exercise to do while pregnant as the bike supports your body weight. As a result, there is much less stress on your joints compared with high-impact exercises such as jogging.4
  • Swimming is a low-impact joint-friendly type of exercise with the added benefit of low risk of overheating and of falling. Many health professionals agree that swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise for a pregnant woman.4
  • Stair climbing machines are another good option for cardiovascular exercise but be aware of the small risk of falling.
  • Aerobics is something that is fine to continue if you were already doing it before pregnancy. However, if you decide you would like to start during pregnancy, it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider.4
  • Walking at a moderate pace on flat terrain, while good for you and your pregnancy, would probably not have the same effect on the baby’s brain as the exercises described above, as it does not markedly increase the heart rate. However, hiking in hilly countryside or at fast pace probably would have similar benefits if  your heart rate increases and you are slightly out of breath.

 Just more evidence to show that exercise during pregnancy is the “smart“ thing to do.

Also, on this topic: Is Exercising During Pregnancy Also Good For Your Fetus?

Sources:

  1. americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health /effects-of-exercise-on-pregnancy/
  2. abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?sKey=f847724b-37dd-4747-87ff-7a1115d695aa&cKey=e7a54b5b-2d24-4877-9f40-f64c06fad5f0&mKey=8d2a5bec-4825-4cd6-9439-b42bb151d1cf
  3. http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20131111-exercise-during-pregnancy-gives-newborn-brain-development-a-head-start.html
  4. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/exercise-and-pregnancy/
Melody Watson
Melody Watson holds Bachelors degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology. She works as a medical writer for a medical communications agency in Berlin, Germany, where her work ranges from medical translation to writing publications for medical journals. Melody is passionate about promoting science, including evidence-based medicine, and debunking pseudoscience.

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