Exercising During Pregnancy: A Good Thing!

pregnancyAccording to Researchers at the University of Montreal, as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week during pregnancy can enhance a newborn’s brain development.[1]

Exercise could have an impact on the child’s entire life, giving them a head start.1 Although many obstetricians tell women to rest during pregnancy, it is now accepted that inactivity during pregnancy actually increases the risk of these complications.1 However, it is always important to follow your physician’s orders when complications are in place.1 If you have asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, exercise is not advisable.[2] Also, bleeding or spotting, low placenta, recurrent miscarriages, previous premature births, or a weak cervix are all conditions that need rest, not exercise.2

For healthy pregnancies, keeping active can also help ease postpartum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable, and reduce the risk of obesity in children.1 It also can help prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.2

It is not recommended that one exercise at a high level, as it can be too much for the unborn baby to handle.2 Low impact aerobics and walking are safe exercises to do during pregnancy, as well as swimming, elliptical machines, and indoor stationary cycling.2

Montreal researchers stated that as exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult brain, they hypothesized that it would also be beneficial for the unborn child’s brain through the mother’s actions.1

Researchers randomly assigned pregnant women who were entering their second trimester to either an exercise group or a sedentary group.1 Women in the exercise group were asked to perform a minimum of 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week at moderate intensity, meaning it should lead to a slight shortness of breath, but nothing more.1 Women in the sedentary group did not exercise.1

Then, after the mothers gave birth, researchers assessed the brain activity of the newborns between the ages of eight and 12 days old through electroencephalography, which enables the recording of the brain’s electrical activity.1 One-hundred and twenty-four soft electrodes were placed on each infant’s head, and when they fell asleep, researchers measured the auditory memory through the brain’s unconscious response to repeated sounds.1

Results showed that babies born to mothers who exercised had a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting their brains developed more rapidly.1 The next step is to evaluate their cognitive, motor, and language development at age one to see if the differences were maintained.1

Overall, exercise during pregnancy has many positive outcomes, and with the guidance of your physician, should be taken advantage of.2

[1] Wood, J. (2013). Exercise During Pregnancy Gives Infant Brain a Head Start. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 11, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/11/10/exercise-during-pregnancy-gives-infant-brain-a-head-start/61811.html

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