Women who do 20 minutes of exercise three times a week boost their babies’ brain development, according to research.
The brains of newborns whose mothers had exercised during pregnancy showed more mature patterns of activity when measured.
Researchers at the University of Montreal said this headstart could impact the child for the rest of its life.
During the study, women at the beginning of their second trimester were assigned to two groups: 'sedentary' or 'exercise'.
The women in the exercise group did at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at moderate intensity three times a week.
After their babies were born, the newborns’ brain activity was monitored for both the sedentary and the exercise groups.
"We used 124 soft electrodes placed on the infant's head and waited for the child to fall asleep on his or her mother's lap. We then measured auditory memory by means of the brain's unconscious response to repeated and novel sounds," researcher Élise Labonté-LeMoyne said.
"Our results show that the babies born from the mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly."
They are hoping this claim will change the perception that women should rest during pregnancy. “While being sedentary increases the risks of suffering complications during pregnancy, being active can ease post-partum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children,” one of the authors of the study, Professor Daniel Curnier, said.
The babies will be monitored again at age one to see if the exercise can have a longer lasting effect.
The NHS advises that, as a rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise during pregnancy. If you become breathless, you're probably overdoing it.
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