"The idea that exercising during pregnancy is good for women is not a new one. An abundance of research has shown that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy experience less in the way pregnancy discomforts, have a shortened active phase of labour, are less likely to need a forceps or caesarean delivery, and recover faster after birth." This article by Yvette Barton explains the benefits of exercising during pregnancy, especially its connection to infant brain development.
The idea that exercising during pregnancy is good for women is not a new one. An abundance of research has shown that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy experience less in the way pregnancy discomforts, have a shortened active phase of labour, are less likely to need a forceps or caesarean delivery, and recover faster after birth. In addition exercise in pregnancy reduces the incidence of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. However recent preliminary research suggests that exercising during pregnancy may also increase infant brain development.
After highly successful animal trials, researchers from Canada’s University of Montreal recently conducted a trial to determine the effects of exercise during pregnancy on human infant brain development. The first of its type, the trial utilised women between the ages of 20 and 35 with a healthy weight. The participants were placed in two groups - an active group and an inactive control group. The active group engaged in structured exercise for at least 20 minutes three times per week throughout their pregnancy, while the control group did not exercise.
The researchers subsequently tested the infant’s brainwave activity at 12 days old. This was achieved by placing soft electrodes on the infant's head and then waiting for the infant to fall asleep in his or her mother’s arms. Examining auditory memory levels the researchers concluded that the brainwaves of babies born to women who exercise during pregnancy are more mature than those of babies born to sedentary mothers. Simply put, the baby’s brains processed information more effectively than those of babies born to mothers who did not exercise during pregnancy.
To explore this idea further, the infants will complete development testing at 12 months of age to determine the longer term effects, if any, of exercise during pregnancy. It should be noted that inactivity during pregnancy was not linked to neurological defeats in this study. Rather, the researchers identified above average brain development in the babies born to women in the active group.
This research is only in its preliminary stages and further study is required to determine the full effects of exercise during pregnancy on infant brain development. However these initial results certainly appear promising and provide yet another reason to exercise regularly during pregnancy. In addition, it is important to consult your doctor or midwife before commencing an exercise program during pregnancy.