Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. Many of us know that and still don’t exercise. However, exercising during pregnancy may come with greater motivation than normal. The motivation is that you may be helping your child’s brain develop faster. In fact, as little as 20 minutes of exercise three times a week could impact your infant’s brain and give them a head start.

What Types of Exercises Are Appropriate?
Before you hop on a bike or take a 10-mile run, you should probably take a peek at the appropriate exercises for pregnancy and see what types of activities are most likely to help your newborn’s brain. The best type of exercise is cardiovascular, and any cardiovascular activity should be done only until you’re out of breath. This may vary for some women, but if you are used to getting a bit of exercise before pregnancy, then 20 minutes should be right on the mark.

The Benefits of Pregnancy Exercise

To test the benefits of exercise on newborn brain development, scientists used a selection of pregnant women and had half of them exercise for 20 minutes three days a week and had the other half not exercise at all. When the babies were born, it was found that they had more developed cerebral activity compared to the babies whose mothers did not exercise.

In addition to benefitting the infant, the exercise was also helpful to the mothers as well. With regular exercise three times a week, the mothers:

  • Slept better
  • Had less back pain
  • Had reduced changes of pregnancy-related diabetes
  • Had reduced changes of obesity after pregnancy

The women who didn’t exercise had greater changes of developing pregnancy-related diabetes and also were more prone to experiencing complications during pregnancy. It was found later during the study that exercise also decreased the chances of developing post-partum depression as well.

After the trial, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, senior medical contributor to ABC News and board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, said that “we know that aerobic exercise has an immediate result of increasing mitochondrial activity in the brain, but this study shows that this effect may in fact ‘cross the placenta’ and benefit the fetal brain as well. More studies with larger numbers are needed and we also need to follow these fetuses through early life to see if these effects result in higher aptitude or accelerated development down the road.”

Source: Ross, P. (2013, November 11). Exercise during pregnancy 'enhances' newborns' brains: what are the best prenatal workouts? International Business Times.