Preliminary evidence suggests that a combination of dieting and exercise is a more effective way of losing weight after pregnancy than dieting alone, concludes a Cochrane Systematic Review.
Women naturally gain weight during pregnancy and many gradually lose it afterwards, but some women find it difficult to lose this additional weight. This retained body weight may be one factor that contributes to obesity among women. Many women are keen to find ways of returning to, and maintaining, pre-pregnant weights, and there is plenty of competing advice on offer.
By studying data from six different trials that involved a total of 245 women, a group of Cochrane Researchers found that women who did exercise did not lose significantly more than women who have a standard post-natal lifestyle. However, women who combined exercise and dieting did lose more weight than those with normal care.
Returning to body weight gradually after giving birth seems to be important, because women who regain their pre-pregnancy weight within six months have a lower risk of being overweight ten years later.
"As well as helping reduce body weight, exercise has the added advantage of improving the women's cardiovascular fitness and preserves fat-free mass - dieting alone reduces fat-free mass," says Amanda Amorim, an epidemiologist working in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.