Moms who work up a sweat during pregnancy may be doing double duty: They’ll make delivery and the immediate aftermath easier on themselves and they might improve their baby’s brain development. This according to a new study which found that pregnant women who performed moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week gave birth to infants who showed higher levels of brain activity than pregnant women who are largely sedentary.
“Our research indicates that exercise during pregnancy enhances the newborn child’s brain development,” said the study’s lead author Dave Ellemberg, a professor in the department of kinesthesiology at the University of Montreal, in a statement. “We are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child’s future.”
The study, which looked at moms in the second trimester of pregnancy, found that 10-day-old babies have a more mature brain when their mothers exercised during the pregnancy. It also confirmed what health experts have been saying for some time: Inactivity while pregnant may be detrimental to the health of mom and baby. Physical activity during pregnancy—low-impact aerobics, swimming, walking—has been linked to easier recovery following delivery and lower risk of obesity for babies.