There are so many benefits to staying fit when you’re expecting …it helps ensure you manage a healthy pregnancy weight gain, prepares you for birth, speeds up your postpartum recovery and can alleviate all sorts of pregnancy aches and pains from swollen ankles to backache.
But did you know that staying fit during pregnancy benefits your baby too?
Research has revealed that your healthy fit pregnancy will boost your baby’s health, storing up long term benefits for your child! If you need any additional motivation to stay active during pregnancy… here’s why exercise is good for both of you.
Boost your baby’s heart health
Lower resting heart rates are a sign of an efficient heart – it’s long been recognised that people who exercise regularly (not exclusively fit pregnant women!) tend to have a lower resting heart rate – but research has shown that exercise improves your babies heart rate too. A study of pregnant women who exercised regularly revealed that their unborn babies also had lower heart rates, pumping blood more efficiently even before they entered the world.
Long term benefits for your baby’s vascular function
It’s not just about heart health BEFORE your baby is born, your fit pregnancy can impact on your baby’s long term vascular health too, according to a study carried out in California.
Results of the research showed that exercise during pregnancy is a powerful programming stimulus in the arteries of the offspring.
Dr. Sean Newcomer, of California State University San Marcos and Dr. Bahls, of Universitätsmedizin Greifswald in Germany said, “Our study was the first to demonstrate that maternal exercise during pregnancy significantly impacts vascular function in adult offspring.”
Will staying fit during pregnancy encourage your child to exercise too?
The chances are that if you exercise regularly you’ll encourage your children to stay active too, becoming a positive role model for your offspring – active mums are more likely to raise active kids. But scientists have explored the possibility that babies learn and absorb an exercise habit from their mothers before they’re even born!
Experiments carried out on mice revealed that the offspring of mothers who exercised (mice like to use their treadmills) were keen to run longer distances themselves as they approached adulthood and maintained a significantly higher level of enthusiasm for exercise than their counterparts born to sedentary mothers. The babies born to non-exercising mothers were less enthusiastic about running and moved around less frequently.
The scientists said: ‘Our findings show for the first time that maternal physical activity during pregnancy affects the offspring’s lifelong propensity for physical activity and may have important implications for combating the worldwide epidemic of physical inactivity and obesity.’
Healthy birth weight
Babies born to women who exercise during pregnancy tend to be less chubby at birth too. High birth weight babies have a greater chance of becoming overweight in childhood, with excess weight linked to a range of chronic conditions including asthma and diabetes. Staying fit during pregnancy and maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet means you’re less likely to pile on unwanted pregnancy pounds and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight.
It’s not just physical benefits – your fit pregnancy can make your baby smarter too!
Researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada carried out a study on pregnant women (not mice this time!). They were all healthy, young women from similar lifestyle backgrounds, the only difference being that one group exercised regularly during their pregnancy, the other remained sedentary.
Their babies (all healthy boys and girls) were monitored soon after birth to test the electrical activity in their brains in response to different stimuli. It seems the brains of babies born to mums who’d had a fit pregnancy were more mature, showing a precocious brain development more in keeping with a much older baby than a new-born.
Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne who carried out the research commented “If a woman can be physically active during her pregnancy, she may give her unborn child an advantage, in terms of brain development,” adding, “We were surprised, by how much of an effect we saw from barely an hour of exercise per week.
It’s not just about maintaining your own health and fitness – the health of your baby is at stake too!
Doctors recommend that all healthy pregnant women should aim for 30 minutes exercise on at least five days a week. If you have any concerns about exercise during pregnancy consult your doctor or midwife before you start.
Would you like to know more about how to get started with your active pregnancy? There’s lots of support and information here.