Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Abbi Lane-Cordova



Pregnancy is associated with increased changes in body weight that can shape long-term health in women. Previous studies have shown that increased prenatal physical activity and decreased sedentary time correlated with less excessive gestational weight gain. Little is known about how leisure time exercise and sedentary behavior affects postpartum weight retention. The aim of our study was to identify how sedentary behavior and leisure time physical activity, both mid-pregnancy and after pregnancy, relate to postpartum weight retention from 6 months to 3 years after childbirth.


A total of 79 women who delivered a singleton infant 6-months to 3-years ago were included in this study. Participants self-reported whether they lost the weight gained during pregnancy (yes/no). The mean age of women who had postpartum weight retention was 32 ± 1 years, and 33 ± 1 years for women who lost their weight gained during gestation. Participants also self-reported mid-pregnancy and current leisure time physical activity and sedentary behavior using validated questionnaires.

RESULTS Of the participants who were sufficiently active during pregnancy and after pregnancy, sufficiently active at one time point, or insufficiently active at both time points, 64% (9/14), 40% (10/25), and 59% (22/37) of participants lost all the weight gained during pregnancy, respectively. There was no significant difference between the three groups (p=0.22). For the participants who had high sedentary behavior at two time points, low sedentary behavior at one time point, and low sedentary behavior at two time points, 54% (14/26), 58% (11/19), and 50% (11/22) of participants lost all the weight, respectively. There was no significant difference between the three groups (p=0.88).


Women who performed a sufficient amount of exercise at both time points were not more likely to lose the weight gained during pregnancy. Based on our data, sedentary behavior during and after pregnancy do not seem to be associated with whether gestational weight gain is retained or lost post-pregnancy. Further research with larger sample sizes is recommended to establish the relationship between postpartum weight retention and longitudinal patterns in exercise and sedentary behavior, both during and post-pregnancy.