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An exercise in happiness: Physical activity choices and psychological wellbeing in post-partum mothers

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posted on 10.12.2018, 16:36 by Gemma WitcombGemma Witcomb, Zoe Harding
Depression in the post-partum period affects a substantial number of mothers and can have serious consequences for quality of life and parenting. It is therefore imperative that the factors that can protect against and provide resilience to parental depression are identified. Exercise and physical activity has previously been found to be effective in decreasing symptoms of depression however the efficacy of exercise as an intervention is still unclear. Using a cross-sectional design and an opportunistic sample, this study sought to explore what exercise mothers choose to, or are able to, engage in and associations with depression and social support. Three-hundred and four mothers (mean age = 32.7 years) with young children (mean age = 14.2 months) completed an online questionnaire consisting of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPNDS), Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) and questions on their physical activity choices (what type, how often, etc). Mothers were divided into groups based on their self-reported exercise habits: No exercise (N-E), own exercise (O-E) and mother-baby exercise classes (M-B). The results found that mothers who engaged in mother-baby exercise classes had significantly less depression symptomology. Frequency of attending classes was associated with social support, with higher scores on the measure of depression related to lower levels of social support (in total and separately from family, friends, and significant others). Not participating in any exercise was reported to be related to lack of childcare and time. These results suggest that, outside of targeted interventions, mother who seek out group exercise classes gain in social support, which may be protective against depression. Assisting mothers with opportunities to engage with such classes should be a priority.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Archives of Sport Medicine






109 - 115


WITCOMB, G.L. and HARDING, Z., 2018. An exercise in happiness: Physical activity choices and psychological wellbeing in post-partum mothers. Archives of Sport Medicine, 2 (2), pp.109-115.


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