Does Exercise Improve Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety?



I wondered throughout my entire pregnancy what I would be like afterward.


Would I suffer from postpartum depression? Anxiety?


Historically, I’ve had downtimes in life. Life’s certainly not easy but becoming a parent took that to a whole new level. I never realized how much I value routine until I saw how unpredictable my daily schedule became once my son was born.


My ability to accomplish anything for myself completely faded once my son was born. Even the best time manager would struggle to make it all happen with young kids.


I wrote about time management last week and a few quick tips my husband and I took on (i.e. phones out of the bedroom; I say this as I type my blog on my phone in bed because I opened up my laptop to a dead battery). We’re not perfect, as my Moment app reminds me every time I unlock my phone, but we do try really hard.


Anyway, as I find myself bogging myself down with more and more tasks and more and more goals, I wonder, will it ever stop? Experienced parents tell me it won’t. ‘It just gets worse,’ they say. I decided in the last couple weeks that this bodybuilding completion will be the last one I do until my kids go to grade school. It’s just that much extra work that I don’t want to commit to again. Frankly, it hinders what exercise does for my anxiety, but I’m not going to quit now so forward on I will march.


Before baby, I don’t think I was a very anxious person. If I was, I hardly noticed. Now I suffer more than ever.


I’m a list person.  As I get to work and the day progresses, I make a list of things to accomplish for the evening. I also have long-term lists and sometimes I schedule out my evening in order to maximize productivity (I got this idea from my husband.  He writes about that here).


Today, because of the long holiday weekend, we both forgot it was Tuesday and thus almost missed an after-work appointment. Luckily, we made it in the nick of time but it didn’t settle on my mind without a truckload of anxiousness about the evening I had ahead.


First of all, the baby got fussy. We left daycare with only ½ a nap in. Bad way to start. Then we hit traffic and the little guy wasn’t thrilled about it.


We finally got to the appointment and he did pretty well through it but as we left and we were 1 hour out from bedtime, the ultimate crank-a-pot-amus came out. There’s nothing like rush hour traffic and a screaming toddler to send my blood pressure through the roof (disclaimer: I’m well aware that I don’t cope well in stressful situations and if you’d make it out of a situation like this unscathed, you are my hero).


After singing the ABCs on repeat for the last 15 minutes of the car ride, we arrived home. It was dinner time, then bath time, and then bedtime.


Sounds easy right?


Wrong! It was 6 pm at this point and I hadn’t even started my workout which I had originally planned for right after work (remember I said I wrote I sometimes schedule my evenings?  I had scheduled this one, only for it to completely change) and I wasn’t sure where writing a blog was going to fit in the crazy.


Finally, I got to my workout. I sit here after all is said and done and wonder ‘was it worth it?’ The stress and anxiety that resulted in my reactions are often what scares me the most because I don’t want to push people away who deeply care about me and about whom I deeply care too.


Exercise has truly been my lifesaver.  I don’t think I would have made it through pregnancy and my postpartum struggles as well without it.  Exercise has helped boost my moods, my confidence, and my appearance. I also think sticking to my fitness regimen has helped me get through my bouts of anxiety.  It gave me something to cling on to and it also taught me that if I don’t get to it, the world won’t end. Everything will be okay.  Tomorrow will come and I’ll get a chance again.  That being said, I don’t make that a habit. My workout routine gives me something to identify with, something to cling on to when it seems like everything else is falling apart.  


Thankfully, research backs up my experiences.  Exercise truly does have a positive effect on postpartum depression and anxiety.  It’s comforting to know that there is hope out there for those that would prefer alternative medicine or feel like traditional medicine just isn’t working.  


So, don’t give up.  It might be hard now but you won’t regret it later.  I feel I still suffer strongly from anxiety. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before but I’m so thankful for even the ability to exercise as it has truly improved my overall quality of life and my ability to be the best mom and wife I can be.  


Lastly, please don’t confuse exercise as a cure-all.  It is simply proven to benefit side effects in many, but not necessarily all, situations.  Also, I’m not perfect and exercise doesn’t solve all of my problems. My life still crashes down around me at least once daily and I cling to exercise and my fitness goals because they’re the few things that remain consistent.  I just hope that you can find that same happiness in fitness.