Exercise for Postpartum Anxiety: Try Strength Training | Well + Good
A non-randomized study published in Canadian Health and Fitness Journalfollowed 19 women less than nine months postpartum who participated in a biweekly strength-based group exercise program created by Les Mills for a total of eight weeks. Although it is worth noting that more robust research on human health is needed, the results Did it We are beginning to shed light on how effective fitness can be in improving the mental health of new moms.
At the end of the study, the researchers identified two major findings of note via questionnaires given to all participants. Next, they noted “significant improvement in meeting basic psychological needs (capacities) and increased autonomy. “We noticed a significant improvement in our emotional regulation (intrinsic motivation),” wrote the study authors.
Interestingly, however, no increase in self-efficacy or improvement in depression, perceived stress, or ‘trait anxiety’ characterized by the anxiety experienced in many situations has been reported.
Still, if you’re a new mother (or soon-to-be), it’s worth pocketing positive results, according to Peggy Loo, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist trained at Postpartum Support International. “The results aren’t surprising to me. Especially in the first few months after giving birth, mothers often go through such radical life, role, and physical changes,” she says. “There is overwhelming evidence supporting physical activity and exercise as a way to reduce anxiety.”
According to Dr. Loo, three aspects of the study are key to understanding the kind of support new mothers really need. “What stood out to me about the study was the group format, where women were able to bring their babies, and this happened within the first nine months after giving birth,” she says.
“Investing in your body and spending time regularly to strengthen it is extremely empowering and can restore a sense of self-care and identity that is often forgotten in the day-to-day work of parenting. —Dr. Peggy Lou
Exercise itself is powerful because there is significant research showing that moving your body makes your mind a safer, happier place. “Investing in and regularly devoting time to strengthening your body is extremely empowering and can restore a sense of self-care and identity that is often forgotten in the day-to-day work of parenting an infant. Plus, given that the childcare crisis has left thousands of women without adequate support, the fact that the classes provided cannot be overlooked either.
“Finally, when you’re around women who are in a similar stage of life and are raising children, there’s always something powerful that reassures you that you’re not alone,” Dr. Lou says.
Inclusive therapist Dr. Linda Baggett hopes future research will delve deeper into the roots of fat phobia, which can also cause postpartum anxiety. “I think one very important factor that hasn’t been mentioned is the issue of weight stigma and fat phobia. stressing the message of perpetuating weight stigma, fatphobia both contribute to eating disorders, increased anxiety and depressive symptoms, and make exercise spaces hostile rather than supportive environments for larger individuals. says Dr. Baggett.
According to Dr. Lu, new moms can put this research into action by adding strength training to their daily routine (even literally 10 minutes twice a week). “I think the advancement of nearly all online options post-Covid is something moms can really take advantage of,” she says. “Participating in an online streaming exercise class from home was also an option. Even gathering a few mothers together on Zoom each week to share a screen playing a short yoga video would have been similar to this study. You can mimic the structure creatively, but with more flexibility.”
Get moving with this 10-minute postpartum workout: