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Keywords:

  • childbirth;
  • weight training;
  • strength training;
  • exercise;
  • physical activity;
  • women's health;
  • obesity

This study assessed the effect of resistance training (RT) in 60 healthy postpartum women. Participants were randomized to 18 weeks of RT or an active comparison group (flexibility training). RT and flexibility training (FT) exercises were completed twice-weekly based on the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations. Study outcomes included muscular strength, body composition (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), exercise self-efficacy, depressive symptoms [Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)], and physical activity (accelerometery). For completers (n = 44), the RT group showed greater strength gains than the FT group, respectively (bench press: +36% vs +8%, P < 0.001; leg press: +31% vs +7%, P < 0.01; abdominal curl-ups: +228% vs +43%, P < 0.01); however, body composition changes were not different. There was a significant group × time interaction for exercise self-efficacy (F = 5.33, P = 0.026). For CES-D score, the RT group decreased (F = 4.61, P = 0.016), while the FT group did not; however, the group × time interaction in CES-D score was not significant (F = 1.33, P = 0.255). Sedentary time decreased (F = 5.27, P = 0.027) and light-intensity activity time increased (F = 5.55, P = 0.023) more in the RT than FT group. Intent-to-treat analyses did not alter the results. Twice-weekly RT increases strength and may be associated with better exercise self-efficacy and improved physical activity outcomes compared with FT in postpartum women.