Postpartum Support International Blog
February 6, 2016
The Exercise Cure
By Sharon Gerdes
Many of us resolve to be healthier in the New Year. We pledge to eat more veggies and exercise more. But it’s cold outside and that left-over Christmas chocolate beckons. Leading a healthier lifestyle is not easy, and it takes commitment. Whether I was a stay-at-home mom, working part-time, or pursuing a full-time career with a busy travel schedule, I always made time for exercise.
According to WebMD, “Research has shown that exercise is an effective but often underused treatment for mild to moderate depression.” If you are pregnant or have recently delivered, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Otherwise, let’s get going.
After each of my pregnancies, exercise was key to getting back to my former healthy self. I had a Caesarean section (first baby), a postpartum psychosis (second baby), and a son who died of a congenital heart defect (third baby). So it was never easy, but exercise was truly my salvation. Start out slowly and progress gradually to avoid injuries. Here are three strategies for new moms.
Exercise videos are great for new moms because you can do them in the comfort of your home. If you’re not used to exercising, start by sitting on the couch or floor with your baby and watching the video. Tap your toes and snap your fingers. Enjoy the music.
- Gradually start doing the “easy” version of the exercise, and take breaks as needed.
- A good goal is to work up to 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
- There are videos for yoga, Pilates, Zumba, cardio, and strength training, so mix it up!
Bonus—nobody is going to see your belly flab.
Walking is one of the best and safest exercises for women of all ages. The ideal time to walk will depend on your preference and situation.
- Sneak outside early in the morning before dad leaves for work and take a solo walk and enjoy “me” time.
- Use a stroller or a snuggly baby carrier to exercise during the day with baby.
- Have dinner in the oven, and let your partner watch the kids while you tromp off the baby fat.
Getting outdoors also helps lift your spirits, but you can walk on a treadmill or in the mall during inclement weather.
Join a group of new moms or neighborhood friends. The socialization will be good for your morale.
- Team with a pal and motivate each other to exercise regularly. Accountability helps!
- Join a gym or find a meet-up group online.
- If you can’t find a group that suits you, start one.
I’m part of a group that hikes every Wednesday. In the winter we use snowshoes or crampons to navigate wintery trails. We share our joys and tribulations on the trail and build lifelong friendships.
Whether or not you choose to use medication, exercising will help you to feel better and may speed recovery from postpartum depression. Medication sometimes has unpleasant side effects and it can be worth trying exercise first in some cases of mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
Exercise has lots of positive side effects. Treat yourself to a new set of sneakers or an exercise video today!
Sharon Gerdes is a Postpartum Psychosis Survivor and Vice President of PSI. Visit her Food And Mood Blog.