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Reasons Why Postpartum Women Don’t Exercise (And How To Overcome Them).

posted Jul 13, 2014, 6:35 PM by AndrewandSarah Witzel   [ updated Jul 13, 2014, 6:38 PM ]
The beneficial effect of exercise on mood disorders (including perinatal mood disorders) has been well-researched. Exercising for 20-30 minutes at a moderate pace at least three times weekly is the usual minimum recommendation, and can help improve anxiety, sleep problems, and other symptoms. However, actually using exercise to aid recovery is a lot easier said (or researched!) than done. Postpartum women have some unique obstacles to establishing and maintaining an exercise program, such as a baby needing constant care! Below are a few common reasons for not exercising and some suggestions for breaking down these barriers to achieving the better mental health that exercise can give you.

I don’t have time - This is probably the biggest barrier to regular exercise among postpartum women. It can be hard enough to find time just to eat and shower! Remember that you don't need to do all your exercise at once - it can be broken down into ten-minute segments,for instance. Try exercising when your baby is awake (so it doesn't cut into your naptime rest) or while you're doing something else (ex. do some step aerobics while talking on the phone, or meet friends for a walk rather than coffee). Remember that taking the time for your needs (which include exercise) is not selfish and will benefit your family in the long run.

I can’t leave my baby  - Whether it’s a lack of childcare, or separation anxiety (for either mom or baby - both are valid!), exercising without your baby may not be an option. Walking with your baby in the stroller or in a carrier is a simple solution. Try going to a mall if the weather isn't suitable for outdoor activity. There are also many mom and baby fitness classes available, often at a reasonable cost through your YMCA, community association, or a mother`s group.

I’m too tired - Even though exercise will boost your energy, it can be very difficult to summon the energy to go exercise! Plan to exercise during the time of day when you have the most energy - in the morning, after lunch, whenever. Don't leave it until the end of the day if that`s when you feel most exhausted. Try exercising outside - the fresh air and sunshine will help you feel invigorated.

I can’t afford it - With baby expenses and reduced income, joining a fancy gym may not be realistic. Fortunately, exercise videos are available for free from the library and are even on youtube. Walking is an easy workout that requires no equipment besides comfortable shoes, and can be done safely even shortly after giving birth.

I’m not comfortable with my postpartum body - While everyone in the movie exercise in skin-tight booty shorts and spandex belly shirts, you won’t look out of place working out in loose clothing. You may feel more comfortable at first exercising at home or in a women’s only facility. Regardless of any weight loss it may or may not causes, exercise can help you feel better about your body. Physical activity helps you appreciate your body for what it can do and how it can help you recover, not only what it looks like.

I don’t like to exercise - Fair enough! It’s hard for physical activity to compete with other things you enjoy spending your time on, especially if you weren’t into it before you had your baby. Try rewarding yourself after an exercise session (lunch with a friend, a manicure etc), or exercising with a friend to help pass the time. You can also choose activities that may be more fun than walking on a treadmill - walking your dog, dancing, or taking a bike ride. Just remember to go briskly enough to get your endorphins going!