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Exercise During Pregnancy may Increase Baby’s Brain Development

06 October, 2014

The benefits of exercise have in recent years been studied by researchers all around the world, and one of the latest studies was on how exercise can affect the development of a baby’s brain during the gestational period.

The study, which was undertaken by the University of Montreal in Canada, is one of the first research studies about this topic where scientists were monitoring the effects of exercise on humans instead of on test animals. The results of the study were presented at the San Diego Neuroscience 2013 conference in November.

According to the parameters of the study, a group of 18 young and healthy local women in their first trimester of pregnancies were involved. All of the women exercised little or only moderately on a weekly basis, and none were what you would consider ‘athletes’.

8 of the women were assigned to what was called the ‘sedentary’ group, which meant that they continued with their lifestyle as it had been before they became pregnant – which meant little to no exercise. The remaining 10 women were assigned to the ‘active’ group, and they were required to exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week.

It was also a part of the study that all of the women went to the university once a month so that the researchers involved could monitor their fitness, and all were required to maintain a daily logbook of the activity that they had undertaken.

After an average six months of this regime, all of the women gave birth – and thankfully all had healthy little boys and girls!

In order for the researchers to monitor the effect that the exercise or lack thereof had had on the baby’s brain development, the newborn babies were all tested on their brain activity responses to various sounds within 8-12 days of being born.

The results of these tests proved that the babies whose mothers had been part of the ‘active’ group in the study had a brain that was far more significantly developed than those whose mothers were a part of the ‘sedentary’ group. The team plans to perform further tests once the babies are 4-6 months old to confirm if the trend of brain development continues throughout their first months.

The lead researcher on the team, Ph.D. candidate Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, stated that while it is not clear exactly how gestational exercise is able to remodel the unborn baby’s brain, but that they suspect it is due to the variety of chemicals that are generated by the mother’s body when she exercises. These hormones have been known to be related to the health of an average person’s brain, and so the researchers have hypothesised that these chemicals enter the blood of the baby through the umbilical cord and the placenta.

Our advice: Whether you are pregnant or not, exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. However, if you are pregnant, then think of it not just as exercising for your health, but also for your baby’s.

To find out more about how CBHS can help you during your pregnancy, call our Member Service Centre on 1300 654 123 or send us an email at

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