Purpose: Women who are unable to return to a healthy weight by 6 months postpartum increase their risk factors for the development of chronic disease (CD; including metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease). In a prospective randomized intervention study, we examined the effect of exercise intensity on risk factors for CD in the postpartum. We hypothesized that women receiving an intervention targeting healthy weight loss would have improved CD risk factors compared with women not receiving the intervention. Further, we hypothesized that nutrition control and moderate-intensity exercise would have the greatest improvement in CD risk factors versus low-intensity exercise.
Methods: Women were randomly assigned to a nutrition plus low-intensity (30% HR reserve; n = 20) or moderate-intensity (70% HR reserve; n = 20) exercise intervention group. The program consisted of supervised walking for 45 min, three to four times per week for 16 wk. All women were screened for CD at the beginning (7-8 wk postpartum) and at the end (23-25 wk postpartum) of the study. A historical control group of 20 sedentary postpartum women was matched by body mass index, age, and parity.
Results: The low- and moderate-intensity groups lost more body mass (−4.2 ± 4.0 and −5.0 ± 2.9 kg, respectively) compared with the control group (−0.1 ± 3.3 kg, P < 0.01). Plasma low-density lipoprotein was reduced for the low- and moderate-intensity groups (−0.29 ± 0.21 and −0.28 ± 0.17 mmol·L−1) compared with the control group (0.03 ± 0.18 mmol·L−1, P = 0.015). In addition, glucose concentrations were reduced and adiponectin concentrations increased (P = 0.037), regardless of exercise intensity, although the sedentary controls remained unchanged or at increased risk for CD.
Conclusions: Women receiving a postpartum intervention targeting healthy weight loss, regardless of exercise intensity, improved CD risk factors compared with women not receiving the intervention.