Exercise for a smarter baby

Prenatal exercise may not guarantee a full-ride academic scholarship into an Ivy League school, but it may boost a baby’s brain health.

Studies have compared the cognitive abilities of babies born from mothers who exercised during pregnancy and those who did not and have concluded that there indeed is a connection to brain health.

According to a study presented at Neuroscience 2013 babies born to mothers who exercised at least 20 minutes a day, 3x a week, had babies with more fully developed brains:

Exercise during pregnancy had an impact on the newborn’s brain. As suggested in previous studies (He et al., 2007), the positive MMN wave is associated with neuronal immaturity and it disappears by 4 months of age. Therefore, the positive wave with a smaller area amplitude in the active group suggests heightened maturity. To better understand the functional significance of our findings, children from this study will undergo developmental testing at age 1. 

Not only is there evidence of prenatal exercise being beneficial to a baby’s brain maturity, but exercise before pregnancy contributes to a lower body mass index which is associated with improved cognitive abilities. According to a study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that infants born to mothers who were obese before they became pregnant had double the risk of developing cognitive problems.

Benefits of Exercise

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes or 2½ hours of moderate aerobic activity each week for healthy women who aren’t already active. Exercise doesn’t have to be labor-inducing to be effective! Of course if you have any medical or pregnancy-related complications you should talk to your doctor first.

Whether exercise during pregnancy proves to play an important role in cognitive abilities later in life remains to be seen, but we do know that exercise supports the following benefits:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Posture
  • Sleep
  • Muscle tone, strength and endurance
  • Reduces backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, make exercise a priority as it will not only benefit you, but also your baby.