Fitness and mental health

It’s hard to think about adding another thing to your schedule when you have a newborn but, at a time when you have never been more exhausted, a little endorphin rush can really help your flagging energy levels. Participating in an exercise programme after giving birth can halve a mother’s risk of depression, as well as increase her sense of well-being

Once you have had clearance from your doctor that it is safe to do so, incorporating
exercise into your routine is an excellent way to help maintain your mental health at
a time when you are vulnerable to the risk of post-natal depression.

Exercise has a beneficial effect on all the cells in the body. Exercise promotes therelease of endorphins and creates a sense of well-being. Not exercising means a lower or no release of endorphins. Women who are not exercising are not getting as much of the natural endorphin release that comes with exercise. When your endorphin levels are low, you may be feeling negative about your body, getting less sleep and feeling more stressed. Exercise helps with these things.

If you want to exercise safely after giving birth, contact a women’s health
physiotherapist for an exercise programme that will enable you to be safely active.
The vast majority of hospitals or clinics have resident physiotherapists, and you
could contact them for advice – most medical aid schemes do cover sessions with
physiotherapists.

Joining a women’s group where you get support and encourage each other will be
greatly beneficial to your emotional well-being. Knowing that you are not alone in this
will help fight those post-baby blues

These informal groups could help you form valuable friendships with each other as well, and you might even arrange to start an exercise programme together. For women at risk of post-natal depression, the forming of relationships like this is a valuable support at a difficult time.

There are gyms that offer childcare while you join an exercise class. Many women want to exercise, but also want to spend time with their children, or are unable to access childcare. Check out your local gym – it is an excellent way to meet other moms in similar circumstances, as well as providing a safe place to have your little one looked after while you exercise.

For those moms that can’t get to an exercise class, even getting out and walking with the baby in a pram is a great thing to do. For Gemma, a mom to a six-month-old, exercise helped her cope with the stresses of her new baby: “On the days when the weather was good, I just popped Ally in a stroller and we went for a fast walk. She’d usually fall asleep when I was walking and the fresh air helped to clear my head. I found I slept better at night on the days when I exercised and I found it easier to wake up for her night-time feeds. On the days when we couldn’t get outside I jogged on our treadmill for 20 minutes while she slept."

For those days when you simply can’t leave home, it is good to exercise at home using a DVD or treadmill. There are a good range of exercise, Yoga and Pilates DVDs available to moms who cannot exercise in a group set-up. You can exercise in the privacy of your own home, which will enable you to exercise safely, with the knowledge that this valuable piece of “me time” goes a long way to maintaining or supporting your mental health.

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