Should I Exercise While Pregnant? (Yes, You Should)

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Apparently, if a mother is taking extra steps to assure a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, she might just boost the development of her unborn baby’s brain. Who knew that exercise benefited us this much – to the extent of benefiting us even before we are born?

The scientific findings of a new study report that an expecting mother’s activity – or lack of – affects the child developing inside of her. This makes sense since the baby is connected to the mother in many aspects. Scientists imply that babies born from athletic, or at least active, mothers tend to have better cardiovascular systems that develop from an earlier age than those who aren’t.

For the first time ever, the researchers of the University of Montreal were able to recruit pregnant women in their first trimester for studying. These women were specially selected to minimize discrepancies. They all mostly had similar lifestyles, and were healthy, young adults. None of them were athletes, though, and have never been in the past.

The women were then grouped into a control group that had no change in their lifestyles, and another group which was asked to work out 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes, on moderate intensity – mostly jogging or walking. These pregnant women would then have to report in every month so that the team could assess their fitness level. Daily self-reports were also kept.

In 6 short months, these women gave birth and had their respective babies come in to the lab within 12 days of birth. Each baby was fitted with a cap that measured brain activity as low, soft sounds were looped for the babies to listen to. Every now and then, there would be some sudden, unfamiliar noises in the recording as well. Throughout the duration, the babies’ brain activities were recorded.

The researchers found that there were larger spikes in brain activity when these jarring noises occurred, typically in those babies that came from sedentary mothers. A smaller spike in brain activity occurred in the babies of the active mothers. According to the researchers, this spike is typically seen in immature brains and gradually lessens until it tapers off around when the baby is 4 months old. In this case, the active mothers saw a greater maturity in their babies’ brains only 12 days after birth.

How a mother’s exercise directly benefits an unborn child’s brain is not exactly clear, however, the research team speculates it may be caused by the number of hormones and chemicals the body releases during a workout. It isn’t quite clear what the future holds for this research, but one thing is certain: If an expecting mother can be physically active during her pregnancy, she might just give her baby an advantage in the brain department – something all of us would like to bless our children with, in this age of competitiveness.