Walking may be the answer for women struggling with postpartum depression

Mom pushing stroller in West Vancouver

A new study out of Western University in London, Ont. is suggesting that physical activity could be key in treating postpartum depression (PPD).

According to the study, a brisk walk, even as little as 15 minutes a day, may be the answer for many women struggling with PPD, though some severe cases may still require traditional medical care.

“PPD can have major effects on a woman’s mental health, but also on the child’s development,” said Veronica Pentland, an undergraduate student, in a statement. “If you are depressed, it’s harder to care for yourself and, by extension, your child.”

Different from baby blues, PPD can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and even a sense of hopelessness. About 23 per cent of new mothers in Canada experience some of these symptoms, while recent studies in Europe and Asia indicate this number has increased to nearly 30 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, which analyzed data from five research projects involving 242 participants, recommends women walk at a “moderate intensity” 90 to 120 minutes per week to reduce PPD symptoms.

Pentland also says there are many long-standing barriers for accessing treatment, especially for mental health, including social stigma, marginalization and discrimination of racialized communities.

Wait times and the ongoing global pandemic have only worsened the situation, she adds.

“Walking is fairly accessible and the great thing is, you can do it with your baby,” said Marc Mitchell from the Faculty of Health Sciences. “If you can get out three or four times a week for half-an-hour or even 15 minutes a day with your baby in a stroller, our findings show it could make a really big difference in how you feel.”