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