By Riva Preil
Simply put, exercise ROCKS. It improves mood, helps control body weight, fights disease, boosts your energy levels, and improves sleep and sex. But that’s not all! Recent research reveals that exercise during pregnancy may improve fetal brain development.
Researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada performed a controlled experiment with women who had previously led fairly sedentary lifestyles. In the study, women were randomly assigned to a control group (non-exercises) and an experimental group (exercised three times per week for approximately 20 minutes per workout, typically running or jogging). The participants were starting their second trimester of pregnancy when the study began. Within twelve days after delivering their children, all participants brought their newborns to the study’s lab. They were fitted with little hats that contained electrodes which allowed the researchers to measure the electrical activity in brains of the newborns. In general, spikes appear on the monitor when newborns hear a sudden or jarring noise. The spike is greatest in immature brains, and it shrinks and eventually disappears by 4 months of age as the brain develops and is capable of processing information better. In the study, researchers noticed that when the babies were exposed to harsh noises, those whose mothers had exercised during pregnancy displayed blunted spikes compared to those whose mothers had NOT exercised during pregnancy. They hypothesize that healthy chemicals are released in women when they exercise, and these beneficial chemicals travel to the developing fetus and contribute to brain growth. Therefore, exercise during pregnancy is highly recommended- even ONE HOUR a week (as in the study) can benefit your baby’s brain development! For more information about what exercises are appropriate for YOU during pregnancy, please contact us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, where highly trained physical therapists can help tailor an exercise program to meet your pre-natal needs.
For more information about the study, please refer to this article in The New York Times.