Publication Date

Spring 2020

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Rachel Tinius (Director), Jill Maples, and Keri Esslinger

Degree Program

Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport

Degree Type

Master of Science


Exercise is typically regarded as having a positive impact on maternal and infant health. However, the relationship between maternal physical activity and infant body composition is unclear. The aim of this project was to determine how a physically active lifestyle during late pregnancy influences infant anthropometrics at birth. Pregnant women (34-39 weeks gestation) with low-risk pregnancies were given the Pregnancy Physical Activity Questionnaire (PPAQ) and an accelerometer to wear on their non-dominant wrist for seven consecutive days. Approximately 24-48 hours after delivery, infant body composition was assessed utilizing air displacement plethysmography at the patients’ bedside. Fifty-five pregnant women participated (age: 30.8±4.5 years; pre-pregnancy BMI: 25.8±6.4 kg/m2). There were no significant correlations between maternal physical activity levels (sedentary, light, moderate) assessed via accelerometry and PPAQ and infant adiposity (PEA POD), even after controlling for infant’s gestational age, gestational weight gain, pre-pregnancy BMI, and parity. Further, when the most sedentary women and most active women were compared, there were no significant differences observed in infant body fat percentage (12.0±4.5 % vs.13.6±3.2 %, respectively; p=0.377). Secondary findings concerning infant body composition included: Infants born vaginally were heavier (3.6±0.4 g vs.3.1±0.4 g; p=0.002) and tended to have a higher percentage of body fat (PEA POD) (14.01±4.3 % vs. 11.29±2.6 %; p=0.040) than those infants who were delivered by cesarean section (C/S). Infants born Large-for-Gestation Age (LGA) had a higher percentage of body fat (PEA POD) but this finding was not statistically significant (15.6±2.0% vs. 13.1±4.0% p=0.142). With regard to parity, infants second (or higher) in the birth order tended to have a higher percentage of body fat (PEA POD) (14.16±3.9% vs. 12.33±3.8%, p=0.088). Contrary to our hypothesis, there was not a significant correlation between late pregnancy physical activity and infant body fat percentage. Physical activity during late pregnancy does not appear to correlate to infant adiposity; suggesting physical activity during late pregnancy is safe and at least does not have a detrimental impact on infant anthropometrics.


Maternal and Child Health | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Women's Health