Exercise In Pregnancy Improves Child’s Brain Development


Doing exercise for 20 minutes thrice a week for the baby shows cognitive differences and this habit also helps in reducing the risk of childhood obesity.

Exercising in moderation during pregnancy is one star ingredient of a recipe that is prepared for nine months to have a baby with higher cognitive development. ‘Just 20 minutes three times a week,’ says a team of the researchers from the University of Montreal and Ste-Justine Children’s Hospital (both in Canada).

One advantage that joins others already described in the literature. According to previous studies, moderate exercise during pregnancy reduces pelvic girdle pain (present in one-fifth of pregnant women), also depression (according to a study of ‘Annals of Behavioral Medicine’, 11% of pregnant women suffer depression in the prenatal period) and the risk of pre-eclampsia (gestational hypertension, one of the most serious complications of pregnancy that affects about 10% of pregnant women).

In addition, experts say, this habit healthy leads to a small reduction in infant birth weight. Since a large size at birth is associated with an increased risk of obesity, said the author, University of Auckland (New Zealand), a limited reduction in weight may have long-term benefits on the health of children to reduce this risk in later years of his/her life.

There are enough reasons to start up the body and not be swayed by laziness. Specifically, this new study, which was recently presented at the Annual Congress of Neuroscience held in San Diego, said that ‘exercise during pregnancy improves child’s brain development,’ says research team leader, David Ellemberg. Although results have already been obtained on the same line in animals, ‘this is the first human clinical trial to measure the impact of this habit during the nine months of gestation in the newborn.’

Given that exercise is beneficial to the adult brain, ‘the hypothesis also includes the child through the mother’s actions’, said Ellemberg. To verify, began this new work, which focused on the second trimester of pregnancy. On a random basis, formed two groups of pregnant women: a sedentary (eight infants) and other assets (consisting of 10 babies), which had to practice moderate exercise for 20 minutes three days a week.

Next, we assessed the brain activity of newborns between their eighth day of life and the twelfth, by neurophysiological examination, electroencephalography, which records the electrical activity of the brain (sleep, wakefulness or sleep). ‘We used 124 electrodes placed on the baby’s head and waited for the child to fall asleep in the lap of his/her mother, and measured auditory memory through brain’s unconscious response to the new sounds,’ explains another researchers, Élise Labonté-Lemoyne.

The results, he concludes, ‘show that babies born to mothers who were physically active had more mature brain activation, suggesting that their brains developed more quickly.’ The next step is to assess the evolution of cognitive, motor and language of the children later, when they have a year to confirm that differences remain as they were.’

Since this study is very preliminary, says Guillermo Garcia Ribas, Coordinator of Dementia Behavior Survey and the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), ‘to be seen in future research if this habit can make a lifetime impact’. No doubt, he adds, ‘there are many other conditions along in life which also improve brain development.’ The truth is that so far, ‘what most studied during the nine months of pregnancy are the effects of music, diet and relaxation therapies in baby’s brain and, although the results have been positive, not are so marked as those in this study.’

‘We hope that this type of work will guide public health interventions and research on brain plasticity. It is important for women to change their habits, considering that simply exercising during pregnancy make a difference in their children, the authors add.

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