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Exercising While Pregnant Could Boost Your Baby’s Brain

Exercising While Pregnant Could Boost Your Baby’s Brain

It’s no newsflash that staying active and healthy while pregnant is the best thing for both mama and baby. But did you know that exercising while pregnant might actually boost your baby’s brain?

The New York Times recently covered a new study that suggests pregnant moms who are physically active may produce babies with more mature brain development.

While not exactly earth-shattering news, the study proves further how important exercise is — even for the unborn. The Times pointed out that past studies have shown, for example, “a baby’s heart rate typically rises in unison with his or her exercising mother’s, as if the child were also working out. As a result, scientists believe, babies born to active mothers tend to have more robust cardiovascular systems from an early age than babies born to mothers who are more sedentary.”

Just this month, at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting an experiment was presented that said that pregnant rats who ran on wheels throughout their pregnancies birthed pups that performed better in early childhood. They then carried these traits into adulthood. Of course, this was not a study on people, but it helped gain a clearer insight into what children might go through in the womb and beyond.

Researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada recruited a group of local women in their first trimester of pregnancy who had similar lifestyles. All healthy, non athletes and young adults, few had exercised regularly before pregnancy, and none had exercised more than a day or two per week in the past year. Some women then began an exercise program, commencing in their second trimester and others did not. Women in the exercise group were asked to work out for at least 20 minutes, three times a week at a moderate intensity (most of them jogged daily).

About twelve days after the mothers gave birth, the babies accompanied their moms to the lab. The babies’ brain activity was measured in response to a variety of sounds.

“We know that baby’s brains respond to these kinds of sounds with a spike” in certain types of brain activity, said Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montreal, who led the study. “This spike is most pronounced in immature brains and diminishes as a newborn’s brain develops and begins processing information more efficiently. It usually disappears altogether by the time a baby is 4 months old.”

The spikes were less pronounced in the babies whose mothers had exercised. “Their brains were more mature,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said. “We suspect that when mom exercises, she generates a variety of chemicals, including many related to brain health, which can move into her bloodstream and eventually mingle with the blood of her baby.”

So what’s the bottom line here? “If a woman can be physically active during her pregnancy, she may give her unborn child an advantage, in terms of brain development,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said. “We were surprised,” she said, “by how much of an effect we saw from barely an hour of exercise per week.”

What do you think of the study? Did you exercise during your pregnancies? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: The New York Times

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Lo Lankford

Lo Lankford is a recent Los Angeles transplant after a decade in the Big Apple. In her "spare time" (ha!) she used to run a dog rescue called Badass Brooklyn and helped save over 400 dogs. Otherwise? Nerd'do well, whistle blower, proud hillbilly from the sticks.


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1:14AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

Thank you :)

9:52AM PST on Nov 30, 2013

good to know

4:23AM PST on Nov 28, 2013

Interesting article, thank you for sharing. I did not have an exercise routine during my pregnancies but I was young and active, I shudder to remember my diet during my first pregnancy though. I have learned much since then. I strongly believe that my firstborn would have a different life had I known some of what I know now then.

8:59PM PST on Nov 27, 2013


7:03PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Useful knowledge,thank you!

4:08PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Lots of exercise, good nutrition, & excellent prenatal care.

Three more reasons that babies born to poor, or addicted, mothers, start out behind the 8 ball, no pun intended.

2:23PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Caring for your body and mind is good for you and your baby. Maintaining your health through exercise is always a good thing.

12:33PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Just do it....

It's good for the mother-to-be as well....

12:10PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

thank you for posting

12:10PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

thank you for posting

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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