An investigation into the effects of light exercise on post-natal low mood : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Sustained low mood in the post-natal period can be a problem for a number of new
mothers, which is experienced as distressing and can lead to the development of Post-
Natal Depression (PND). Interventions need to recognise the challenges of new
motherhood, and how these may impact upon a women’s ability to seek treatment. The
current study draws on previous research suggesting that exercise may be beneficial in
improving the mood of new mothers. Whilst this positive effect has previously been
demonstrated for women with PND, it has not been investigated for women with postnatal
The effects of a 12-week pram-walking programme on post-natal low mood were
investigated. The impact of self-esteem and exercise-enjoyment on mood outcomes
were also explored. Thirteen participants with post-natal low mood were recruited and
randomly assigned to a walking intervention group or a stretching comparison group.
All participants were under the same conditions in order to isolate the effects of walking.
Main findings suggest that mothers in the 12-week walking programme experienced
statistically significant improvements in mood, however this was also the case for
participants in the stretching comparison group. A relationship was found between selfesteem
and mood throughout the study, but, unexpectedly, exercise enjoyment was not
related to mood.
The implications of the findings are based on the potential for exercise to be
implemented to address low mood and also act as a potential preventative measure for
the development of PND. Further investigation into the role of self-esteem within the
exercise-mood relationship, and specific exercise prescription variables that will best
serve a post-natal population, is needed.