March 26, 2007 / 8:57 PM / 12 years ago

More walking, less TV help new moms trim down

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Walking, avoiding trans fats, and turning off the TV may go along way toward helping new mothers pare off extra post-baby pounds, a new study shows.

“There are things that women can do that don’t seem to me to be particularly onerous to avoid retaining a lot of weight after pregnancy,” Dr. Emily Oken of Harvard Medical School, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.

Many women don’t lose all their “baby weight” after the baby is born, and there is evidence that this type of weight gain can be particularly hazardous to health, Oken noted in an interview; for example, it is more likely to collect around the abdomen.

Oken and her colleagues followed 902 women to determine which behaviors were associated with retaining weight after childbirth. Six months after their infant was born, mothers reported how much time they spent watching TV and being physically active, and also filled out a diet questionnaire.

After 1 year, the average weight was 0.6 kilograms (2.2 pounds) more than before pregnancy, and 12 percent retained at least 5 kg (11 pounds).

For every extra hour of TV a woman watched each day, her risk of retaining 5 kg or more increased by 24 percent, the researchers found. Every 0.5 percent of calories from trans fats increased the risk of retaining 5 kg-plus by 33 percent. However, for every hour a woman walked daily, her risk of keeping at least 5 kg of baby weight fell by 33 percent.

Women who watched fewer than 2 hours of TV daily, walked for at least 30 minutes a day, and consumed less trans fat than the group average had a 77-percent lower risk of holding on to 5 kg or more of post-pregnancy weight.

Given new laws on food labeling and restrictions on trans fat in restaurant foods in certain localities, “it’s easier for people not to eat trans fats now,” said Oken. Younger people — such as women in their childbearing years — may not worry much about the heart disease risk associated with eating trans fats, but the risk of weight gain may get their attention, she added.

And reducing TV watching is likely good for babies as well as their mothers, she noted. “Turning off the TV is good for the mom’s weight, but also probably good modeling for the kid.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2007

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