New research by a group of American psychologists has suggested that women who work out while they are pregnant could be improving their child’s IQ.
Contrary to the more popular theory that a person’s intelligence is based 80 per cent on their genes, psychologist Richard E Nisbett says these new results reveal the mother plays a significant role on their child’s intelligence, while the father is far less of a factor.
Nisbett’s new book, Intelligence and How To Get It discusses the importance of the mother’s actions during the pregnancy, which have an impact soon after conception.
“Children whose mother exercised 30 minutes a day score around eight points higher on standard IQ tests than children whose mothers were more sedentary,” he said last week . “Breast-feeding for up to nine months may increase IQ by as much as six points.”
In the past expectant mothers were discouraged from any kind of arduous exercise after the the first three months of pregnancy. In this recent research is is thought most women can gain some benefit fron light exercise including weights, stretching and running.
In the UK the officiall health advice from the Government is that keeping active and fit before and during pregnancy will be beneficial for labour as well as in preparing the body for the extreme changes and weight gain.
Celebrities like Halle Berry, Christina Aguilera and Isla Fisher are all advocating the practice of gentle exercise during pregnancy.
“Exercising large muscle groups increases the growth of neurons and adds to the blood supply of the brain,” writes Nisbett. The combination of exercise and breast feeding is expected to increased a child’s IQ from the average 100 to 114 points.
Nisbett is also of the belief that how parents speak to their children is also significant. He encourages the process of asking children questions where they know the answer already in order to get children to find answers to their own questions rather than being reliant on their parents.
In addition Nisbett thinks it is important to praise a child when they do something correctly by calling them hard working rather than clever, as the former term equates to something tangible they have control over.
It seems Nisbett’s theories are proving popular - in Texas mothers are leaning how to make their home “educationally rich” for their children - especially during school breaks.
He also praises the private school chain, Kipp (Knowledge Is Power), where underprivileged children and their mothers study for 12 hours a day and take shorter holidays - Kipp IQ scores are in a par with the more conventional and expensive private schools.
However, Nisbett warns it is important not to put too much pressure on a child to learn, taking away the freedom of childhood. “But the mother is the most important IQ agent here. In families dominated by a father, there are higher mathematical skills but that’s all we contribute, I’m afraid,” he said.
Not all mothers are overjoyed about the extra pressure they have to nurture these young Einsteins. Californian author Ayelet Waldman, who in 2005 controversially said she loved her husband more than her three children, feels mothers have enough to cope with already.
Waldman, 44 has a new book, due out next week called, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. She comments that mother’s today were being asked to undertake such a role in their child’s education that their own parents never had to face. “Just remember . . . little you do to your kids damages them for ever,” she said.