PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Pregnant women who exercise give their babies a brain boost, a new study shows.

The research, out of the University of Montreal, reveals that as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can help expectant mothers to enhance their baby’s brain development.

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Starting at the beginning of the second trimester, researchers randomly assigned pregnant women to either an exercise group or a sedentary group. Those in the exercise group had to do at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week, and it had to be rigorous enough to result in minor shortness of breath. Women in the sedentary group did not exercise.

Once the mothers gave birth, their baby’s brain activity was assessed between 8 and 12 days using electrodes placed on the baby’s head.

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According to the study’s lead researchers, the babies of the mothers who exercised showed “more mature cerebral activation,” suggesting their brains developed more quickly than the babies of the mothers who were sedentary.

“While being sedentary increases the risks of suffering complications during pregnancy, being active can ease post-partum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children,” researcher Professor Daniel Curnier explained in a press release. “Given that exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult’s brain, we hypothesized that it could also be beneficial for the unborn child through the mother’s actions.”

Researchers say they are planning to monitor the babies’ brains at the age of one to see if the differences are maintained.

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For more info on the study, click here.