This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Influence of Increased Physical Activity on Weight Retention, Body Composition, Psychological Profiles, and Cardiovascular Function in Postpartum African American Women




Montgomery, Valda

Type of Degree



Health and Human Performance


High postpartum weight and physical inactivity levels in black females have been shown to be greater than in any other group of women and may be associated with obesity, negatively altered mood, depressive symptoms and low cardiorespiratory fitness levels. This study determined the use of the pedometer to increase walking (physical activity) in African American women who were between 6 weeks to 6 months postpartum. This study also investigated the influence of increased physical activity as measured and monitored by the pedometer on three areas of interest in this population: 1) weight retention and body composition; 2) mood and depressive symptoms and 3) resting heart rate and resting blood pressure. Methods to increase physical activity in thirty-two postpartum African American women (aged 18-40) are described. Results from a paired t-test showed a significant difference in the mean steps/day before and after the study. A negative relation was found between increased average steps/day and change in body mass index (BMI (kg/m²)). While no significant correlation was found between increased average daily steps and waist to hip ratio (WHR), results of paired sample t-test indicated a reduction in waist and hip circumferences as well as WHR in this group. Findings were unsuccessful in showing a relationship between increased average steps/day and mood states as well as depressive symptoms. Also, no significant difference in the pre and post Profile Of Mood States scores was found suggesting maintenance of a stable mood, conversely, the results of a paired t-test indicated that the post Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) total scores were significantly lower than the pre BDI scores after the intervention. Results confirm a negative relationship between increased physical activity and resting heart rate. No relationship between average steps/day and resting blood pressure or the time it takes to reach a predetermined target heart rate (TTT) was found. Paired t-tests revealed no significant differences in mean resting values or TTT before and after the study implying the possible need for more time after childbearing for the cardiovascular responses to exercise to return to normal. In conclusion, the present study yielded no significant results regarding cardiorespiratory fitness. However, other findings provide evidence that increasing physical activity, by increasing daily steps, in African American women who are between 6 weeks to 6 months postpartum has the potential to reduce retained weight, waist and/or hip girth, as well as depressive symptoms and maintain mood stability.