When I became a Mum for the first time it was one fo the hardest things I had ever done. It’s strange when you are pregnant with your first. You are excited, excited for something you have no idea about it! People tell you what being a parent will be like and I know this can sound so patronising, but you really don’t know what is coming! You don’t have a clue. It’s not just about the sleepless nights, it’s losing yourself for a while. You are a slave to this beautiful little creature you have created. They depend on you for everything! Food, warmth, comfort and you don’t always know what to do to make them settle and calm. Crying becomes overwhelming and frustrating. The lack of sleep and time to yourself can male life feel very tough for a little one, whilst you battle with the love you feel for them. It can be a scary, overwhelming time and post partum anxiety and depression can rise its head. It did for me a little and I know I wasn’t myself for a while. I needed something to help me get through and for me post-partum exercise was my key.
Exercise and Mental Health
We probably all know the benefits of exercise for our physical health; it helps to maintain a healthy weight, is good for the cardiovascular system, it strengthens joints and weight-bearing exercise if good for bone health.
But what about mental health?
Research by Myprotein asked their customers how sport and fitness played a role in their mental health and 99% agreed it helped their mental well-being. Their motivation to take part in fitness activities were to feel more comfortable in their body, to improve mood, and to reduce stress. They asked sport and exercise scientist Jamie Wright, who agreed studies have found a significant improvement in mental health following exercise introduction.
For both genders body comfort and improved mood were the primary motivations.
Weight training was considered to help most with mental-wellbeing, according to 78% of customers. This was followed by running, jogging, or walking and gym cardio in 47% of those surveyed. 20% selected swimming, as the third most popular.
Golf and football were also popular ways to keep fit; possibly due to getting outdoors in greenery and having some fresh air!
The bottom line from the piece of research however is that exercise and training has enormous benefits for mood and mental health and personally I’ve always gone to this when my anxiety is high or mood feels lower.
Post-Partum Exercise and My Mental Health
This was the same for me after having my babies.
I knew I wanted to get back to the gym, as soon as I could. It wasn’t for me about losing my baby weight, although honestly there was a part of me that did want to fit into old clothes but I needed the exercise! Of course I waited until six weeks and I’d had my check. I started a little walking and slow cross training at home prior but nothing more physical.
After my third baby I was keen to get into shape for an upcoming holiday so I did start a little earlier very slowly but I was experienced and knew what to expect.
After my eldest was born, I knew I needed to escape a little. I needed some time for me. I started going back to the gym early in the mornings. I would wake up feed my eldest and have a snack. At that point we lived on the same road as the gym, so I would head down and have a training session and come back. I was waiting for knee surgery on an old injury, so I took it steady but just being back was amazing. It was freedom!
I needed that time for myself. Some headspace and a time to feel like me again. I knew a few people in the gym and it was good to be around adults and have some fun. I was never diagnosed with post-partum depression but those first few weeks were very tough. I had to work hard to keep my head afloat, so I didn’t go under and sink with that pressure of being a new Mum and the huge change to my life.
It’s a no-brainer for me. Exercise and fitness is my natural high. I feel good when I’m training. I love the atmosphere of the gym, people to chat to and hiding away in my music for a hour. I come away with my mood boosted and ready to get on with the rest of my day. It may be tough with work or the kids but I’ve had that workout and I’ve achieved something!
What about you? Do you exercise for your mental health?
Disclosure – this is a sponsored post.