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Exercise may help treat and even prevent postpartum depression. Researchers recommend this weekly routine

2 min read

Researchers have apparently stumbled on a new prescription for postpartum depression (PPD)—one that’s free, easily accessible, and doesn’t involve pharmaceuticals. 

It’s well known that working out provides a wide variety of physical health benefits, from protection against heart disease and diabetes, to improved sleep and lower blood pressure. But it can also cause physiological changes that counteract mental health conditions like depression—through a release of mood-boosting endorphins during high-intensity exercise, and a release of proteins during sustained low-intensity exercise that causes nerve cells to grow and form new connections.

Those benefits extend to PPD, according to researchers in China. They examined data from 26 studies involving 2,876 women who were pregnant or had recently given birth, in a bid to determine what type of exercise—and how much—is most effective at combating the condition, defined as depression occurring within a year after delivery.

The most effective regimen, they found: three to four sessions a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, with each session lasting 35-45 minutes. Group exercise classes and exercise led by an instructor or trainer appear to provide even greater benefits.

Patients with PPD often have reduced motivation to exercise, making developing the habit challenging, researchers said. They encourage medical providers to craft individualized exercise programs for pregnant and postpartum women that take into account their fatigue levels and interests, and to monitor their adherence as best as they can.

Study participants engaged in a wide variety of exercise options, including:

  • cycling
  • walking
  • running
  • yoga
  • dance
  • calisthenics
  • aerobic training classes
  • swimming
  • stretching

Further research on the topic is needed, they added, encouraging providers and patients to interpret the study results with caution.

Potential non-drug treatments for PPDD


Erin Prater

2023-11-29 14:05:34

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