Physical Activity in Low-Income Postpartum Women


  • Susan Wilkinson,

  • Chiu-Mieh Huang,

  • Lorraine O. Walker,

  • Bobbie Sue Sterling,

  • Minseong Kim

  • Susan Wilkinson, RN, PhD, Epsilon Theta, Research Associate, School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin, TX; Chiu-Mieh Huang, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Chang-Gung University, Taiwan, ROC; Lorraine O. Walker, RN, EdD, Epsilon Theta, Luci B. Johnson Centennial Professor in Nursing, School of Nursing, Bobbie Sue Sterling, RN, PhD, Epsilon Theta, Project Director, Austin New Mothers Study, School of Nursing, Minseong Kim, MED, Graduate Research Assistant, School of Nursing, all at University of Texas at Austin, TX. This work was supported by grant NR04679 from the National Institute of Nursing Research. We acknowledge Sally Wilging for her contribution to this study. Correspondence to Dr Walker, University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing, 1700 Red River Street, Austin, TX 78701-1499. E-mail:


Purpose:To validate the 7-day physical activity recall (PAR), including alternative PAR scoring algorithms, using pedometer readings with low-income postpartum women, and to describe physical activity patterns of a low-income population of postpartum women.

Methods:Forty-four women (13 African American, 19 Hispanic, and 12 White) from the Austin New Mothers Study (ANMS) were interviewed at 3 months postpartum. Data were scored alternatively according to the Blair (sitting treated as light activity) and Welk (sitting excluded from light activity and treated as rest) algorithms. Step counts based on 3 days of wearing pedometers served as the validation measure.

Findings:Using the Welk algorithm, PAR components significantly correlated with step counts were: minutes spent in light activity, total activity (sum of light to very hard activity), and energy expenditure. Minutes spent in sitting were negatively correlated with step counts. No PAR component activities derived with the Blair algorithm were significantly related to step counts. The largest amount of active time was spent in light activity: 384.4 minutes with the Welk algorithm. Mothers averaged fewer than 16 minutes per day in moderate or high intensity activity. Step counts measured by pedometers averaged 6,262 (SD=2,712) per day.

Conclusions:The findings indicate support for the validity of the PAR as a measure of physical activity with low-income postpartum mothers when scored according to the Welk algorithm. On average, low-income postpartum women in this study did not meet recommendations for amount of moderate or high intensity physical activity.