As an expecting mama, you want the best for your baby. That’s why you take care of your body, eat the right foods, and take healthy supplements. But what if there was something else you could do to help give your baby a head start in life?

Well, there is. And you may already be doing it: exercise during pregnancy.

We know exercise is good for our brains

Of course exercise during pregnancy (and in general!) helps keep the body healthy. But it also has a profound impact on our brains. Exercise boosts our mood, vitality, and feelings of well being. More importantly, exercise can help reduce brain shrinkage and enhance our cognitive function.

According to a study cited in New York Times:

Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in complex, lasting ways.

Turns out, exercise during pregnancy is also good for your unborn baby’s brain

It’s true. And what’s surprising is just how little exercise during pregnancy is needed. A University of Montreal study found that just 20 minutes of exercise, done three times a week, can enhance your baby’s brain development. And we’re not talking cross fit, spinning, or zumba. Moderate exercise – anything that leads to a slight shortness of breath – will do the trick, according to researchers.

How did they verify this info? Starting in the second trimester, women in their study were randomly assigned to exercise during pregnancy or a sedentary group. Then, after their babies were born, researchers measured what was going on in the infants’ heads. They did this by way of electroencephalography, which involves placing 124 soft electrodes on the child’s head. The results, according to lead researcher Élise Labonté-LeMoyne, were that, “babies born from the mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly.”

Interesting. But I can’t get that picture of babies with electrodes on their head out of my mind. Ah, science!

So, about the old school advice to rest and take it easy while pregnant…

Yeah, that’s a thing of the past, unless of course you’ve been ordered to bed rest. If that’s the case, LISTEN!

But for most of us, we can enjoy some moderate exercise. Steer clear of sports that could result in injuries. And slow and steady is the way to go – walking, swimming, prenatal yoga are all great exercise choices while pregnant.

Of course, your husband or partner still needs to step up, do more dishes, take care of the other kids if you have them, and dote upon you in general. That goes without saying. 🙂

Are you pregnant? Planning a baby shower?

Check out my baby shower list, a handy visual guide that features everything you need to keep your new baby cozy and cared for 😉

Did you exercise during pregnancy?

What kind of exercises did you do? Share with us in the comments below so we can learn from each other!