How Exercise Improves Mental Health

exercise improves mental health

There’s nothing more life-changing than being a new mom. On the bright side, it’s a splendid time to bond with your little bundle of joy. But the “life-changing” part doesn’t mean it’ll always be perfect Instagram moments. Around 1/3 of postpartum depression cases actually begin during the pregnancy itself. In recent years, many healthcare professionals and mothers have come forward to say that pregnancy is anything but a serene and joyous occasion. Expecting mothers’ health does not just refer to her physical fitness; it’s about her mental well-being, too. This is why pregnant ladies should tap into proper and well-paced exercises to help boost their mental health.

1. Set small goals you can actually achieve

Some babies sleep a lot, and often new moms believe they should use that time productively. If you’re anticipating a return to work, then those hours may seem like the last chance you’ll have to organize your house, write thank you notes, and stockpile meals. But try to resist the urge to take on large tasks. Instead, set manageable “micro-goals”—which can be as small as taking a shower and writing one note a day. Those accomplishments will help you feel successful, which is an important way to boost your spirits.

2. Maintain healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise

maintain healthy habits

Sleep deprivation can often mimic some of the signs of PPD, including feeling irritable or overwhelmed. The good news is that a moderate exercise program (if approved by your physician) may improve your mental health. How? It can help reduce the risk of depression and nurture positive feelings, while also contributing to better sleep.  Look into low-impact options like yoga, weights, or walking to engage both your body and mind positively.

3. Exercise as a Mood Booster

Stress is often a contributing factor to expectant mothers feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. Exercise can help release stress from their system. ‘Pregnancy brain’ is also a major cause for concern, which can be helped by exercise. Safe physical exertion can help improve the clarity of an expectant mother’s mind.

A lot of expectant mothers do not always realize the extent to which they can use physical exercise while they are pregnant. Most pregnant women think that they should avoid physical exertion. However, exercise can help pregnant women improve their moods by causing endorphins to move through their bodies. Exercise also helps to boost energy, as pregnancy often makes women feel fatigued and sore.

4. Exercise as a Means to Connect

exercise means to connect

Exercise can also connect pregnant women with other soon-to-be mommies through prenatal exercises. Not only will pregnant women get the physical workout they need, but it’ll also make a great sounding board for sharing thoughts and concerns. Having another pregnant person who can truly relate to what you’re going through can really help ease anxiety and depression. This is another way that exercise can improve an expectant mother’s mental health.

Prenatal exercises like swimming, brisk walking, and even low impact cardio are additional gateways that mothers-to-be can use. Not only will it get them out into the world for fresh air, but it also gets them to be in a safe space to exert themselves and sweep away negative thoughts. A woman’s pregnancy is a time of many changes and that does not just refer to the ones that her body will be going through, so exercise is a definite must.

5. Staying motivated

You’re more likely to stick with an exercise regime if it involves activities you enjoy and fits into your daily schedule. Consider these simple tips:

  • Find a partner- Exercise can be more fun if you use the time to chat with a friend. Better yet, involve the whole family.
  • Start small- You don’t need to join a gym to get in shape. Just get moving. Try a daily walk through your neighborhood. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Try a class. Many hospitals and fitness centers offer classes, such as prenatal yoga, designed for pregnant women. Choose one that interests you and fits into your schedule.

6. Listen to your body

When you’re doing physical activity, drink lots of water, and listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. As important as it is to exercise, it’s also important to watch for signs of a problem. Stop your activity and call your provider if you have any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Muscle weakness or pain or swelling in your lower legs.
  • Regular, painful contractions.
  • Your baby stops moving.

When can you start exercising after giving birth?

Ask your health provider when it’s OK for you to be active again:

  • If you have a vaginal birth, it’s usually safe to start exercising a few days after you give birth or as soon as you’re ready. Vaginal birth is the way most babies are born.
  • If you have a c-section or a complication during birth, you may need to wait longer to start exercising after birth.
  • If you were exercising during pregnancy, it’s easier to get back into exercise after your baby is born.

Every single facet of a pregnant woman’s life is going to transform because of the life that she holds inside of her. This should galvanize the importance of improving her physical and mental well-being and exercise just might be the tool to help her get it. If you have never exercised before, use pregnancy as your motivation to begin.

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