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Health Update: New Tricks to Ditch the Baby Weight

A new study shows that picking up free weights may be the true trick to trimming belly pooch. Researchers found that 25- to 44-year-old women who started strength training twice a week lost nearly four percent of their body fat over two years and gained less weight in their tummy areas (which usually happens as you get older) compared to another group that did not take these fitness classes.

"Muscle requires energy to exist, whereas fat just sits there," says study coauthor Peter J. Hannan, a senior research fellow in the division of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota.

"So when you build new muscles, you increase your overall metabolism and burn more calories all day long -- not just while exercising."

But you don't need to be a total gym rat to see results. Pick up a set of free weights and lift for 10 or 15 minutes while the baby's napping, or add muscle-boosting lunges to your basic stroller outing (see below). Some studies suggest that short bursts of activity throughout the day are actually better fat burners than hourlong sweat sessions.

 

Granted, he doesn't have 40 weeks of pregnancy weight to shed, but odds are your partner can stand to lose an errant pound or two. And according to Yale researchers, you're more than 50 percent more likely to start exercising if your partner's into it too.

"It's about creating a supportive environment," says study author Jody Sindelar, PhD, professor and head of the Division of Health Policy & Administration at the Yale School of Public Health. "If your husband's out running or talking about how much he likes it, you'll be much less likely to want to stay home and watch TV." Set mutual goals and carve out time for healthy activities together, like taking evening walks with the baby or buying a healthy-recipe cookbook and trading off making tasty low-cal dinners.

Eat more and weigh less? Sounds like a gimmicky diet commercial, but Penn State researchers found that people who add a soup course to lunch or dinner actually eat 20 percent fewer total calories than those who dive right into their entrees. "Soup has a very low calorie density, which means that even large portions have relatively few calories," says study author Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. Other foods that fit this bill are salads and water-rich fruits and veggies.

"It's a win-win, because you get to have more food, so you feel full, but consume fewer overall calories so you can still lose weight more readily," she adds. The trick is to keep the soup course under 150 calories (steer clear of cream-based broths) or else you risk increasing a meal's total caloric impact.

We know what it's like -- you're so short on time, energy, and childcare these days that when you do have a free minute, squeezing into spandex is the last thing you want to do. In fact, a new study found that women who report lack of childcare as a workout roadblock are 75 percent more likely to be postpartum couch potatoes than those who don't.

Our advice: Team up with a friend in a similar boat. You watch her baby while she sneaks in a jog; she repays the favor when you head to spinning. Working moms can also take advantage of lunch hour for a quickie gym session or neighborhood power walk -- even if you can only step away from your desk once or twice a week, it's still better than not going at all. And know that numerous studies show that working out regularly can actually make you feel less tired in the long run, no matter how draggy you feel before you start.

Trading in your Regis and Kelly addiction for a turn with the stroller may have major, major payoffs for moms looking to shed those just-won't-budge pounds. According to Harvard University researchers, women who watch less than two hours of TV, walk at least 30 minutes a day, and eat a diet low in trans fats are about 75 percent less likely to retain their last 10 or so pregnancy pounds than those who don't.

You hear this over and over, but "even though walking is such a simple act, the payoff adds up when you do it often enough," says study author Emily Oken, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention. Plus, for new moms who hate leaving baby behind, it's a great way to spend time together without shrinking your weight-loss goals.

Copyright © 2007 Meredith Corporation.

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