Mom’s exercise in pregnancy increases her baby’s brain activity

The Los Angeles Times reports that, according to the results of a study presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, maternal exercise during pregnancy appears to result in more “mature brains” in infants. Researchers arrived at this conclusion after comparing brain activity in infants born to a group of mothers who were active exercisers to those born to a sedentary group of mothers.

CBS News reports that not much exercise was needed for the effect. Expectant mothers “who exercised for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week, had newborns who showed higher levels of brain activity than pregnant women who did not exercise.”

The Time “Healthland” blog also covered the story and says:

The study … is the first to connect mom’s exercise and her baby’s brain development. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that expectant mothers exercise moderately for about 30 minutes every day, this guideline was primarily to help women get through their pregnancies with less back pain, diabetes and sleep problems.

The Canadian researchers aren’t quite ready to say that being more active during pregnancy can lead to smarter children, but they plan to follow up with the infants when they are a year old, to see if their heightened brain activity set the stage for more neural connections and enhanced cognitive development.

As encouraging as the findings are, however, not all moms-to-be should start hitting the treadmill. Some women with high-risk pregnancies shouldn’t exercise strenuously, so experts suggest that women consult with their doctors before starting a workout regimen. Still, for most mothers, the results provide yet another reason to get active (or stay active) even when you’re expecting.

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