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Low-income, Pregnant, African American Women's Views on Physical Activity and Diet


Address correspondence to Susan W. Groth, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, University of Rochester School of Nursing, 601 Elmwood Ave, Box SON, Rochester, NY 14642. E-mail:



This research was conducted to gain insight into how low-income, pregnant, African American women viewed physical activity and approached nutrition during pregnancy.


Three focus groups with a total of 26 women were conducted utilizing open-ended questions related to physical activity and diet during pregnancy. Content analysis was used to analyze the verbatim transcripts. Groups were compared and contrasted at the within-group and between-group levels to identify themes.


Two themes that related to physical activity during pregnancy were identified: 1) fatigue and low energy dictate activity and 2) motivation to exercise is not there. Three themes were identified that related to diet: 1) despite best intentions, appetite, taste, and cravings drive eating behavior; 2) I'll decide for myself what to eat; and 3) eating out is a way of life.


Women reported that being physically active and improving their diets was not easy. Women indicated that their levels of physical activity had decreased since becoming pregnant. Attempts at improving their diets were undermined by frequenting fast food restaurants and cravings for highly dense, palatable foods. Women ceded to the physical aspects of pregnancy, often choosing to ignore the advice of others. A combination of low levels of physical activity and calorie-dense diets increased the risk of excessive gestational weight gain in this sample of women, consequently increasing the risk for weight retention after pregnancy. Health care providers can promote healthy eating and physical activity by building on women's being “in tune with and listening to” their bodies. They can query women about their beliefs regarding physical activity and diet and offer information to ensure understanding of what contributes to healthy pregnancy outcomes. Intervention can focus on factors such as cravings and what tastes good, suggesting ways to manage pregnancy effects within a healthy diet.