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Postpartum Exercise Regardless of Intensity Improves Chronic Disease Risk Factors

DAVENPORT, MARGIE H.1; GIROUX, ISABELLE2; SOPPER, MAGGIE M.1; MOTTOLA, MICHELLE F.1,3,4

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 6 - p 951-958
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182051155
Clinical Sciences

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.

1R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation-Exercise & Pregnancy Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, CANADA; 2Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, London, Ontario, CANADA; 3Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Schulich School of Medicine, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, CANADA; and 4Child Health Research Institute, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Margie H. Davenport, Ph.D., R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation-Exercise & Pregnancy Laboratory, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 3K7; E-mail: davenport.mh@gmail.com.

Submitted for publication April 2010.

Accepted for publication October 2010.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine