Background Gymnastics is a preferable safe exercise for postnatal women performing regularly. Objective The aim of this pilot randomized controlled trial was to determine whether the aerobic gymnastic exercise improves stress, fatigue, sleep quality and depression in postpartum women. Design Single-blinded, randomized controlled trial held from December 2014 until September 2015. Setting: Postnatal clinic of a medical center in southern Taiwan. Participants 140 eligible postnatal women were systematically assigned, with a random start to experimental (n = 70) or a control (n = 70) group. Interventions Engage in aerobic gymnastic exercise at least three times (15 min per section) a week for three months using compact disc in the home. Outcome measures Perceived Stress Scale, Postpartum Fatigue Scale, Postpartum Sleep Quality Scale, and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Results In a two-way ANOVA with repeated measures, the aerobic gymnastic exercise group showed significant decrease in fatigue after practicing exercise 4 weeks and the positive effects extended to the 12-week posttests. Paired t-tests revealed that aerobic gymnastic exercise participants had improved significantly in perceived stress and fatigue after 4 weeks gymnastic exercise; these positive effects extended to the 12-week posttests. In addition, the changes in physical symptoms-related sleep inefficiency after 12 weeks gymnastic exercise were significantly decreased in the experimental group compared with the control group. Relevance to clinical practice The findings can be used to encourage postnatal women to perform moderate-intensity gymnastic exercise in their daily life to reduce their stress, fatigue and improve sleep quality.
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