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How to Overcome Postpartum Depression With Exercise: Walking Back to Happiness

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | August 25th, 2017

Postpartum depression (PPD) is undeniably distressing. And this isn’t helped by the fact that finding appropriate treatment can be difficult. Women often dismiss antidepressant drugs due to the risks associated with breastfeeding and psychological therapy can be perceived to carry social stigma. But there’s a very natural and easy treatment that can suit everyone: exercise in its very simplest form…walking!

PPD: The Facts

It’s supposed to be a period of immense joy but all too often emotions following childbirth are a complex mix of rock-bottom lows as well as soaring highs. In fact 70% of women experience baby blues in the first two weeks following childbirth. But for 1 in 9 US women, feelings of anxiety, anger and worthlessness persist and become utterly overwhelming. This is PPD.

How Can Walking Help Overcome the Symptoms of PPD?

It is well documented that regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression. Aerobic exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and stimulates the release of ‘feel good’ chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins. What’s more, regular exercise improves sleep, boosts self-esteem and offers a welcome distraction from the stresses of daily life. Simply getting out of the house is a well-known cure for baby blues and, in the same way, a regular change of scene can help calm the mind of those afflicted by PPD.

In addition to these mood-boosting benefits, exercise during the postpartum stage inevitably has physical benefits: weight-loss, strength building and accelerated post-birth recovery time. This is particularly significant given that postpartum body weight is often an issue of concern for those with PPD.

Is Walking Sufficient?

Yes! Walking is ideal. It offers an easily achievable goal, baby can come along too, and it can provide an opportunity to meet friends. It’s important to remember that the mood-elevating benefits of exercise can be experienced without any changes in physical fitness. A brisk 30 minute walk each day is easily sufficient to reap the rewards. Recent research has shown that this amount of exercise during pregnancy and postpartum will also help protect against PPD developing.

It’s As Easy As That!

In an age where drug development seems to be the only hope of medical advancements, it’s a refreshing change to discover that self-help in the form of moderate exercise is a recommended treatment method. In fact, more and more, health professionals espouse the importance of healthy living as a primary preventative and curative treatment. Sometimes the simplest things are the best!

Thanks for reading.

by blog contributor Jackie Edwards

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