There are tons of articles out there about the health benefits of exercise for pregnant and post-partum moms and people in general. These articles often overlook, or mention as an afterthought, the mental health benefits of exercise, particularly for post-partum moms. Exercise doesn’t just help you physically; it can help you also feel better emotionally. I can say from my own experience that exercise, in combination with therapy, really helped me get out from under the fog of post-partum depression.
Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
The biggest mental health benefit of exercise is that it directly impacts the brain and its different sections, especially the hippocampus, a part of the brain used for memory and learning. Exercise improves blood supply to parts of the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the brain which improves neural health throughout.
Exercise is scientifically proven to help with mood, as it relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise provides you with a quick release of endorphins which provides you with a feeling of euphoria and happiness. This is why people often feel better after moderate exercise even if they weren’t feeling energized before they started the work out. This is also why doctors and therapist will often prescribe exercise to their patients struggling with depression or anxiety.
Exercise reduces stress through the release of norepinephrine, a chemical that can improve the brains response to stress. Exercise also can serve as a form of meditation that helps you forget the struggles of the day as you focus on your work out.
Exercise is associated with increased self-esteem as you experience a sense of accomplishment from: achieving a goal, making it to class, being able to hold that plank a few seconds longer, weight loss, or muscle gains.
Exercise has also been linked with better sleep, which if we are all being honest with ourselves, we could all use a lot more. Exercise raises your body temperature and then when it drops back down it can make you sleepy. It is especially helpful if you can work out outside as you can absorb natural sunlight.
As you can see, exercise really does so much for your mental health. So, get up off your couch and go for a walk, ride a bike or join us for a class. We’d love to see you! Just get up and get moving to help improve your mood.
Please keep in mind that this blog post is not to be used in place of medical or mental health advice. Please consult your primary care physician before starting a new exercise routine while pregnant or after your baby comes.