Research Study Abstract

Change in level of physical activity during pregnancy in obese women: findings from the UPBEAT pilot trial

  • Published on March 1, 2015

Background: Maternal obesity is associated with an increased risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes. Physical activity (PA) might improve glucose metabolism and reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes. The purpose of this study was to explore patterns of PA and factors associated with change in PA in obese pregnant women.

Methods: PA was assessed objectively by accelerometer at 16 – 18 weeks’ (T0), 27 – 28 weeks’ (T1) and 35 – 36 weeks’ gestation (T2) in 183 obese pregnant women recruited to a pilot randomised trial of a combined diet and PA intervention (the UPBEAT study).

Results: Valid PA data were available for 140 (77%), 76 (42%) and 54 (30%) women at T0, T1 and T2 respectively. Moderate and vigorous physical activity as a proportion of accelerometer wear time declined with gestation from a median of 4.8% at T0 to 3% at T2 (p < 0.05). Total activity as a proportion of accelerometer wear time did not change. Being more active in early pregnancy was associated with a higher level of PA later in pregnancy. The intervention had no effect on PA.

Conclusions: PA in early pregnancy was the factor most strongly associated with PA at later gestations. Women should be encouraged to participate in PA before becoming pregnant and to maintain their activity levels during pregnancy. There is a need for effective interventions, tailored to the needs of individuals and delivered early in pregnancy to support obese women to be sufficiently active during pregnancy.

Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN89971375 webcite (Registered 28/11/2008).


  • Louise Hayes 1
  • Catherine Mcparlin 1,3
  • Tarja I Kinnunen 4
  • Lucilla Poston 5
  • Stephen C Robson 2
  • Ruth Bell 1
  • On behalf of the UPBEAT Consortium


  • 1

    Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Baddiley-Clark Building, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4AX, UK

  • 2

    Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

  • 3

    Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

  • 4

    School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

  • 5

    Division of Women’s Health, Women’s Health Academic Centre, King’s College, London, UK


BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth