TOOL 4: Exercise
Exercise can improve our mental health
Research shows that exercise has a positive impact on mood: exercisers often report less anxiety, and exercise can help improve feelings of mild to moderate depression. Physical activity can also regulating stress hormones and decrease overall stress levels. (Note: Your health care provider can help you choose appropriate exercise ideas.)
One way our body gets rid of extra stress hormones is through our tears and our sweat. Sometimes a good cry or sweaty exertion is just what we need to get back in balance.
It is hard to exercise when I need to care for a baby
Luckily, to get this positive impact on our mood, we don’t have to do high-intensity exercise. It is actually more effective to stay within our comfort zone and slowly increase our activity levels. Anything active counts. Take advantage of Baby and Me exercise classes or yoga, use child-minding services at the gym, or trade off with another mom.
"Walking is man’s best medicine.— Hippocrates."
If you are looking for a little extra motivation for getting active, watch 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?
Ideas for getting your body moving other than the gym
- Take the baby out for a stroll. You can experiment with different types of baby carriers/strollers to find a good fit for yourself and your baby.
- Find a bit of nature to walk in.
- Hold your baby while doing squats.
- Get a baby and me exercise or yoga exercise DVD (often available through your library).
- Find other moms to exercise with.
- Park a block from an appointment and walk the rest.
- Dance with your new dance partner (or have a dance party if you have older kids).
- Do household activities with the baby in a carrier; it is exercising with special weights.
- Give yourself credit for the extra exercise lugging around a baby and supplies!
For more ideas on getting started, see Finding it hard to exercise?