Predictors of Postpartum Exercise According to Prepregnancy Body Mass Index and Gestational Weight Gain

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

The study purposes were to examine (1) differences in postpartum exercise (EX) and related personal/psychological correlates in women according to prepregnancy weight and pregnancy gestational weight gain (GWG) status and (2) predictors of EX at 2 weeks, 2 months, and 6 months postpartum.

Methods:

Participants (N = 891) were recruited at maternity hospitalization and completed interviews to assess EX (Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire) and personal correlates (demographics, anxiety/depressive symptoms) before/during pregnancy. Telephone interviews were conducted to assess postpartum EX/psychological correlates. Women were categorized according to prepregnancy weight (normal and overweight) and pregnancy GWG status (above or within weight gain guidelines): normal-above, normal-within, overweight-above, and overweight-within.

Results:

Low levels of EX minutes were observed in all women with significant differences for strenuous EX minutes (overweight-within women had the lowest strenuous EX; normal-weight women had more strenuous EX than overweight women regardless of GWG). Correlates explained 14%–37% of the variance in postpartum EX; prepregnancy EX and pregnancy EX were strong determinants of early postpartum EX, and early postpartum EX predicted 6-month postpartum EX. Unique predictors of EX also emerged (eg, depressive symptoms for women with GWG above guidelines).

Conclusions:

These study findings highlight the benefits of EX before/during pregnancy for promoting postpartum EX and suggest tailoring postpartum EX interventions based on personal/psychological correlates to maximize effectiveness.

Downs and Leonard are with the Exercise Psychology Laboratory, Dept of Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Downs is also with the Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA. Beiler and Paul are with the Dept of Pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA. Paul is also with the Dept of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.

Downs (dsd11@psu.edu) is corresponding author.
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