If you’re a Baby2Body mom, exercise is likely already an important part of your prenatal and postpartum routine — because that’s what we’re all about.
You don’t need us to tell you that fitness is a key part of a healthy lifestyle (because, duh), but if you’re struggling with motivation (and we’ve all been there) we have something that might help: the 5 ways that staying active benefits your child’s longterm health.
Ultimately, we want to arm you with the tools and resources to make the healthiest choices and for you. But sometimes, a little extrinsic motivation can go a long way.
It can help to know that those workouts aren’t just doing you a world of good, but they’re also setting up your kids for healthier outcomes for the rest of their lives. This isn’t just in pregnancy either, your workouts as a new mom can impact them, too. How cool is that?
Let’s look at what the science shows…
5 Ways Your Exercise Routine Can Make Your Kids Healthier
1. Prenatal Exercise Can Boost Baby’s Brain Development
According to some exciting new research there is strong reason to suggest that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy give their children a leg up when it comes to brain power.
The intricate workings of how your exercise benefits baby’s growing brain is not fully understood – but researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada believe it could be due to the combination of chemicals released during prenatal exercise playing a role in fetal brain development.
Their recent study showed how newborns of women who had consistently exercised displayed ‘more mature brain function’ when being put through some simple tests. For more on the study and its findings – read here.
2. Prenatal Exercise Can Benefit Baby’s Heart Health
During exercise, your heart rate naturally increases. When pregnant however, it’s not only your heart rate that goes up: your baby’s heart rate actually increases in the womb too!
So how is this beneficial for baby’s heart health? Well, people who regularly exercise generally have a lower resting heart rate, which is indicative of a more efficient, and healthier cardiovascular system. The interesting findings on prenatal exercise suggest that women who workout regularly while expecting have babies with a lower resting heart rate too. It’s as if baby is getting healthy exercise with you!
These benefits have also been shown to extend into infant heart health and even childhood heart health. For more on the research in this space, read here.
3. Prenatal Exercise Can Reduce Baby’s Risk of Chronic Diseases
Knowing how your activity levels can impact baby’s brain and heart health, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that exercising during pregnancy can reduce baby’s risk of lifestyle diseases — including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
In 2016, an international team of researchers published a really informative piece on the influence of prenatal exercise on offspring health that should be encouraging to women everywhere. They discuss how, regardless of income or socioeconomic status, prenatal exercise is linked to higher rates of full-term delivery and healthier infant birth weights.
Their research findings conclude that “exercise during pregnancy may elicit a prenatal programming effect, creating a healthy environment in utero during a critical time of organ development”. For the full research paper, read here.
4. As A Parent, Your Activity Levels Influence Your Child’s Activity
While prenatal exercise is incredible does a lot of good and lays the foundational work, the benefits of staying active for you and your child continue after birth too! Just because you no longer have that direct physical link to baby in your womb, it doesn’t mean that your fitness routine can’t have an impact on them.
This is where nurture starts to take over from nature. Reports have shown that parents who are more active have children who are more likely to lead active, healthier lives as well. It’s largely about leading by example — and the data is there to back it up.
A study last year found that a child’s level of physical activity increases by 5-10 minutes for every 20-minute increase in the physical activity of a parent. You can read the full findings here. For more on the influence parents have on child physical activity, check out this research paper.
5. More Reasons To Stay Active For Your Child
There’s a lot more research that can be uncovered in this space, as studies are looking at the impacts of physical activity on parental stress and coping and how that effects the parent-child relationship; to how regular physical activity can make children more stress resilient; and even how maternal activity levels impacts their children’s propensity for exercise differently than paternal activity.
By this point we hope you’re already lacing up your sneaks for today’s workout or booking that 6am workout class for tomorrow. But the biggest takeaway from all of this is that the benefits of exercise – to both you and your child – come when fitness is a regular and valued part of your life.
It doesn’t have to be going to the gym every day or paying for expensive classes a few times a week; it can be as simple as a bodyweight circuit in your home (for that be sure to download the Baby2Body app!) or going for weekly walks or jogs outside as a family. Even that quality time together will have lasting, positive impacts on its own.
We hope this has left you feeling inspired and motivated to keep after your fitness routine as a new or expecting mama. If you’re looking for more guidance on a safe and effective prenatal exercise routine or postpartum strengthening plan – be sure to download the Baby2Body iOS app.