Background

Excess weight during pregnancy increases risk for adverse maternal and infant outcomes. There is evidence that increased physical activity (PA) may buffer these effects. However, few studies have documented amounts of PA or its demographic and psychological correlates among pregnant women with overweight/obesity.

Methods

Women (N=264, Mage=28.46, SDage=5.43; MBMI=34.00, SDBMI=7.09) between 12-20 weeks gestation (M=15.69, SD=2.45) were recruited for an observational study of perinatal weight and eating patterns. Participants completed ratings of perceived stress and depressive symptoms. Eating disorder psychopathology was documented by the Eating Disorders Examination interview. PA was assessed via interview using the Paffenbarger Physical Activity Survey, yielding estimates of total energy expenditure (TEE) and expenditure from light and moderate to vigorous intensity PA (MVPA). Height and weight were measured to calculate BMI. Weeks gestation was included as a covariate in all models.

Results

Mean duration of PA of any intensity was 201.67±456.65 minutes, with 22% of women engaging in the recommended ≥150 weekly minutes of MVPA. Lower family income was associated with lesser likelihood of meeting this recommendation (OR=2.348, p<0.01). Higher perceived stress (β=-0.137, p=0.04) and eating concerns (β=-0.168, p<0.01) were associated with lower TEE. Depressive symptoms were not associated with any estimate of PA. No estimate of PA predicted BMI.

Conclusions

Pregnant women with overweight/obesity engage in modest amounts of PA during the first half of pregnancy, although few meet PA guidelines. Lower family income, higher perceived stress and greater eating psychopathology were related to lesser PA engagement. Future research to determine whether PA early in pregnancy is associated with maternal and infant outcomes later in the perinatal period is indicated.