Bouncing back into life

Being a mother of three, Beth Lewis, an associate professor at the School of Kinesiology, is familiar with the fatigue and chaos that follows birth. The lack of sleep, the stress of a new baby, and the readjusting to life makes it an easy time for exercise to slip. This post-pregnancy period is difficult for many mothers, especially if suffering from postpartum depression.

Lewis’ strong support for the well-being of mothers led her to start the Healthy Mom studies in 2009. Her first study found that both exercise and wellness coaching from a health counselor were helpful for preventing postpartum depression. Prior to this study, she was aware of research that demonstrated the positive effects of regular exercise in decreasing depression in adults, but there were no studies examining the effect of exercise on preventing postpartum depression. In 2012, she began her second Healthy Mom study, which again examines the effect of exercise on preventing postpartum depression.

healthy-mom-study“My goal of this second Healthy Mom study is to show the benefits of exercise and give that information to health providers,” Lewis said. “Those health providers can then counsel women on how to exercise to help reduce postpartum depression.”

In graduate school, Lewis committed to exercising five days a week despite her busy schedule. For Lewis, the increase in energy and alertness outweighed the cost of giving up time to exercise. As Lewis became a mother, she stayed committed to exercising postpartum and has seen the positive results.

However, Lewis knows and understands that exercise during postpartum is difficult. With a new baby, there is often no time for a new mom to do things for herself. With so many changes happening, exercise is often one of the first things to go. For many women, if they stop exercising postpartum, it can be difficult to start an exercise program again.

“My hope is to demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise,” Lewis said. “The results of this study may inform how to manage postpartum depression and how soon prevention can start.”

Through this research, Lewis wants to reveal the positive effects of exercise in all areas of life. Even for those without clinical diagnoses of depression, regular exercise positively impacts an individual and everyone around him or her.

“How people feel immediately after a workout is typically what motivates people,” Lewis said. “Knowing that exercise reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes is usually not a good immediate motivator for exercise; however, it’s typically about finding an exercise you enjoy and holding on to the good feelings after a workout.”

For more information or to inquire about participating in the Healthy Mom study, please email mompro@umn.edu or call 612-625-9753.

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