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Postpartum Exercise Eases Depression

A study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing contends that women who engage in vigorous exercise after childbirth find it easier to shed excess pounds, stave off depression, and maintain healthy, active social lives.

Lead study author and professor of nursing Carolyn Sampselle of the University of Michigan hopes that her research will lead doctors to discuss the many benefits of exercise for new mothers, who are at increased risk for depression. “The message we send now is that all of your attention should go to the baby and don’t worry about yourself. ‘You can come later.’ I think they [doctors] are really doing a disservice to women.”

Sampselle and colleagues analyzed surveys taken by 1,003 women as part of their 6-week postpartum check-up. The 35% of women who engaged in vigorous exercise were more likely than the 65% that did not to engage in healthy social activities. Researchers concluded that “Participation in vigorous exercise at 6 weeks postpartum was significantly associated with psychosocial well-being.”

Exercise also helped women to shed excess pounds gained through pregnancy. Women who reported exercising had reduced their pregnancy weight gain to 8.6 pounds after 6 weeks, while those who reported that they did not engage in vigorous exercise had retained 11.3 pounds of excess weight.

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19-Feb-99

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