pregnant women: If you want to help your child get into
Harvard, lace up those sneakers and exercise.
week goes by without science delivering new evidence that
exercise boosts the brain. Studies have linked exercise to
brain health in senior citizens, middle-aged
adults and kids. A trio of researchers from the
University of Montreal figured the same might hold true for
babies in utero as well.
Ellemberg and Daniel Curnier, two professors from the
university’s Department of Kinesiology, and graduate student
Elise Labonte-LeMoyne recruited women who were in their first
trimester of pregnancy and randomly assigned them to an
"active" or "sedentary" group. Women in
the active group were advised to get at least 20 minutes of
moderate exercise (using at least 55 percent of their maximal
aerobic capacity) at least three times a week during their
second and third trimesters, while women in the sedentary
group pretty much took it easy.
the babies were born, researchers tested their brains to see
if they could spot any differences between infants whose
mothers exercised and infants whose mothers were couch
researchers fitted the 8- to 12-day-old babies with
specialized caps made up of 124 soft electrodes that detect
electrical activity in the brain. Then they waited for the
babies to fall asleep. Once they were snoozing, the scientists
played a series of sounds — some new, some familiar — and
measured the response of the infants’ brains.
enough, the babies whose mothers had exercised had more mature
brains than the babies whose mothers were sedentary, according
to study results presented Monday at the Neuroscience
2013 meeting in San Diego.
the women in the active group were asked to exercise for a
minimum of 60 minutes per week, they wound up doing so for 117
minutes per week, on average. For the sake of comparison, the
women in the sedentary group averaged only 12 minutes of
moderate exercise per week, according to the study abstract.
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," Ellemberg said in a statement.
and his colleagues will continue to follow the babies until
they are at least 1 year old, to see if the benefits of
prenatal exercise are long-lasting. In addition to auditory
memory, they are also evaluating their cognitive, motor and