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Maternal Exercise During Pregnancy Benefits Newborn Brain Development

Exercise During Pregnancy Benefits Newborn Brain DevelopmentMothers who exercise during pregnancy at least 20 minutes three times per week could be benefiting their baby’s brain development, according to new research conducted at the University of Montreal and the affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital.

That exercise benefits adults’ brains has long been known. Thus, the researchers hypothesized thatmaternal exercise during pregnancy would likewise benefit babies’ brains. Prof. Daniel Curnier, one of the researchers on the study, states:

“Given that exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult’s brain, we hypothesized that it could also be beneficial for the unborn child through the mother’s actions.”

To test the hypothesis, the researchers studied a group of women starting at the beginning of their second trimester of pregnancy. The women were assigned either to an exercise group or to a sedentary group. The exercise group exercised during pregnancy by performing at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week at a moderate intensity. The sedentary group abstained from exercise.

After birth, the babies in both group were monitored by electroencephalography, which enables the recording of the electrical activity of the brain. The researchers discovered that babies born to mothers who engaged in moderate exercise during pregnancy displayed more mature brain activity. As PhD candidate Élise Labonté-LeMoyne, another researcher on the study, explains:

“Our results show that the babies born from the mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly.”

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In other words, moderate maternal exercise during pregnancy is beneficial to the brain development of newborn babies. Although pregnant women had previously been advised to take it easy, the results of this study indicate that women should continue to exercise during pregnancy.

The researchers are now evaluating the babies in the study’s cognitive, motor, and language development at age 1 to verify if the differences in brain activity between the two groups are maintained.

References

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Exercise during pregnancy gives newborn brain development a head start: http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20131111-exercise-during-pregnancy-gives-newborn-brain-development-a-head-start.html
Maternal exercise benefits newborn brain development: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/268651.php

Image Credits

Exercise During Pregnancy Benefits Newborn Brain Development: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/601552

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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