Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. Exercise was not associated with additional weight loss in lactating women without the addition of calorie restriction.

2. Exercise was positively correlated with decreased bone loss and improved body composition.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

The postpartum period represents a time where many women regain interest in following an old (or new) exercise regimen. Few studies have examined the effects of exercise during the postpartum period, especially for breastfeeding mothers. As a result, the present review aims to determine the effects of exercise on weight loss, body composition and bone mineral density in lactating women.

This integrative review included 12 studies out of 179 identified studies from 1990 and 2019. The study populations included the United States, Sweden and England. Studies were included if they studied women who were breastfeeding at the beginning of the trial, had an exercise component, and had outcomes of: weight, body fat percentage and/or bone mineral density. Statistical analysis was not performed in this study. Outcomes assessed the effect of exercise amongst lactating women on weight loss, bone mineral density, and body composition.

The results of this study demonstrated that exercise (without calorie restriction) in the postpartum period was not associated with additional weight loss. Conversely, it was found that exercise was positively correlated with decreased bone loss and improved body composition (reduction of body fat while preserving fat free mass). However, this study was limited by the varying definitions of breastfeeding across the included studies and the fact that weight was self-reported. Nonetheless, the present study highlights important benefits that may be conferred through exercise in postpartum lactating women despite the lack of observed weight loss.

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