Attitude is everything when it comes to pregnant women and weight loss. A new study shows that women who are motivated and positive retained less body weight years after pregnancy.

The study followed 56 women during their pregnancy and examined their physical activity levels as well as observed barriers to exercise and their ability to overcome them. James Piavarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University co-led the study. He and the rest of the research team followed up with more than half of the participants after six years, and discovered that women who didn’t believe they could overcome their barriers retained more pregnancy weight than those who were positive. The obstacles recorded included time, motivation, and childcare issues.

"The women who had difficulty believing they could overcome barriers that often occur in daily life or just thought they weren't cut out for physical activity overall retained 11 to 13 more pounds of pregnancy weight later on," Pivarnik said in a press release.

This study is critical to determining how to help pregnant women maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. The research shows that most of the battle is in the mind. If they push themselves to achieve their goals, studies show their waistline can get smaller quicker over time.

"We know that it's beneficial for a woman to be active in some way during and after pregnancy so she can regain her fitness and help with weight loss," Pivarnik said in the release. "But what can affect this is whether women think they can or can't do it."

The Office on Women's Heath (OWH) specializes in improving the health in women in girls. They offer some tips to pregnant mothers who want to be active. According to the OWH, exercise seems to make women more prepared for labor. It also makes it easier to sleep at night, improves self-esteem and lowers the risk of anxiety and depression.

For pregnant mothers feeling uninspired, the OWH says you can start off slow. Find exercise you can do comfortably without being extremely out of breath. Make sure you drink enough water and have a healthy diet. Stick to low impact activities and not sports where you can risk getting hit with a ball. Stay away from working out in hot temperatures, and if you feel dizzy or fatigued stop working out.

One step at a time, pregnant women can achieve their goals but it starts with mental health. If they make up their mind to maintain an active life their baby weight won’t stay on for years after giving birth.

Source: Bauer P, Pivarnik J, Feltz D, Paneth N, Womack C. Relationship of Past-Pregnancy Physical Activity and Self-efficacy With Current Physical Activity and Postpartum Weight Retention. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014.