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Exercising While Pregnant Could Make Your Baby Smarter

Updated on March 26, 2015
Staying active while pregnant can benefit both mother and child in a variety of different ways.
Staying active while pregnant can benefit both mother and child in a variety of different ways. | Source

Are people responsible for developing and improving their own physical and mental abilities? You might think that the answer is an obvious “yes,” and while that may be true for the most part, there are exceptions. This fact was dramatically illustrated by a study performed at the University of Montreal that found women who were physically active while they were pregnant had babies who tended to demonstrate increased levels of intelligence compared to babies born to women who were more sedentary during their pregnancies.

Study Structure

The study divided 29 different expectant mothers in their first trimester into two categories, one of which performed at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week, and the other of which did not exercise at all. Eight to ten days after the babies were born, their brain activity was studied while the research team played unique sounds while they were asleep. Élise Labonté-LeMoyne, the team leader, said, “We were looking at the brain’s ability to discriminate between sounds — because it’s the basis of language. The task was easier for babies whose mothers exercised.”

Exercising while pregnant may help improve the physical and mental health of the baby after birth.
Exercising while pregnant may help improve the physical and mental health of the baby after birth. | Source

Potential Causes

Of course, physical exercise can have a wide array of major health benefits for almost anyone, whether they are pregnant or not. For pregnant women in particular, however, it now seems that exercise can be beneficial both for the mother and the unborn child. Some analysts believe that the benefits of a mother’s exercise on an unborn child may be due to the release of brain chemicals during exercise that are known to improve adult brain function, theorizing that these chemicals can have a similar impact on a baby still in the womb. This theory, however, has not yet been proven.

Yoga is just one of many different forms of exercise pregnant women can perform to improve their health and that of their baby.
Yoga is just one of many different forms of exercise pregnant women can perform to improve their health and that of their baby. | Source

Other Studies

This is not the first study that has been completed to analyze the connection between exercise during pregnancy and potential benefits to the baby after birth. For example, some studies had found evidence that communication skills and intelligence test results for children whose mothers exercised while expecting was substantially higher at the age of five than for children whose mothers did not exercise. However, no previous studies had maintained precise records of the exact level and type of exercise the women in question had completed during their pregnancies. The University of Montreal study, therefore, produced a much higher level of detail than any previous studies. This study’s findings were first presented in November 2013; the researchers plan to continue monitoring the babies involved to watch for continuing or developing results.

Finding the time and energy to exercise while pregnant can be challenging, but it is well worth the effort.
Finding the time and energy to exercise while pregnant can be challenging, but it is well worth the effort. | Source

Final Considerations

Of course, most doctors recommend avoiding physical activities during pregnancies that include a risk of impact, such as ones where a ball or other object might accidentally strike the stomach. Otherwise, however, no risk has been detected for most women who exercise during their pregnancy, but rather a broad range of potential health benefits for both mother and baby.

Where do you prefer to exercise?

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References

Washington Post: “Exercise during pregnancy boosts baby’s brain development”

GoErie: “Mom’s exercise during pregnancy boosts baby’s brain power, study finds”

Punch: “Benefits of exercise during pregnancy”

Post Bulletin: “Moms’ exercise during pregnancy boost babies’ brain power, study finds”

New York Times: “Mother’s Exercise May Boost Baby’s Brain”

What do you think is the best type of exercise for an expectant mother?

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