Is it possible to recover from postpartum depression with exercise?
It’s common to feel bogged down by the pressure of being a mum - especially if you’ve just had your first child.
Seriously, I was clueless. I referred to, 'Save Our Sleep', by Tizzy Hall like it was my bible.
On top of your crazy mumma hormones, sleep deprivation, and feeling unattractive and fat, you have all these new responsibilities, and that ever-present feeling of needing to be the ‘perfect mum’.
By the time my second daughter was born, I already knew what to expect, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with the fatigue, the insomnia, juggling an extra baby, the worry and the lack of motivation. Thankfully I was lucky to have the support of my friends and an amazing sister. Plus a love of exercise that saw me through darker times.
It’s true - though postpartum depression comes about when you have a child, you can tackle it with exercise in the same way you would with other types of depression. But let’s take a step back.
Does exercise really help with depression?
In a word: YES.
“Treating depression with exercise was just as effective as medication, and vice versa. Furthermore, combining the two treatments yielded the same success rate as doing either one individually.”
Natural Happiness: The Truth About Exercise and Depression steps through an American study (2000) showing the effectiveness of exercise on treating depression. What’s even more interesting is how each of the test groups held up six months later.
Of the group who were given only exercise as their test treatment, only 8% of patients relapsed into depression. This is a significantly small figure compared to 31% from the exercise + medication group, and 38% from the medication-only group.
This study remarks that exercise offers psychological benefits that can aid in treating depression, but there’s also evidence to suggest that exercise can stimulate the production of new cells in parts of the brain that deteriorate with stress.
Keep it simple, Mumma!
Don’t worry, you won’t need to fill your week with fitness classes; a daily walk is the perfect place to start and something you can do with bub too. Be mindful that following a self-acclaimed Instagram fitness guru isn’t advisable. If you’ve only recently given birth you’ll need to be selective about which exercises you come back to - at least while your pelvic floor and core muscles regain their strength.
My advice for a postpartum exercise regime is simple:
Choose ONE exercise activity and stick to it and WALKING is the perfect place to start.
Pick something easy and schedule it for when you know you’re most likely to commit. Don’t aim for too many things at once. Just choose one thing and do it until it becomes a habit.
Then later, if you’re ready for more, you can add something else. Over-ambition is an easy trap to fall into, and it only floods your to-do list with things you won’t end up doing. Your new family member will keep you busy enough, so take baby steps and work your way up.
So, take advantage of the beautiful world we live in, and get outside for a walk, allow your shoulders to relax, breathe and walk. Do this over and over and let it be.
You’re a great mum and your baby adores you.
Our postnatal exercise fitness program promotes a caring and supportive environment where mums work together to restore their body confidence, build core function, lose weight and build strength, tone and fitness.