The Association between Neighborhood Environments and Physical Activity from Pregnancy to Postpartum: a Prospective Cohort Study

Pregnancy and early postpartum (also known as the 4th trimester) is an extremely important time in both the woman and child’s life. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend physical activity during the pregnancy and postpartum period, as it has shown to pose minimal risk and is an essential activity for fitness and a number of health outcomes.

We know that aspects of the built environment influences whether and how a person is physically active, but little research has been done to examine how these built environmental factors influence physical activity during the pregnancy and postpartum period. I am happy to share an article recently published in the Journal of Urban Health authored by myself, Daniel Rodríguez, Brian Frizzelle, and Kelly Evenson titled “The Association between Neighborhood Environments and Physical Activity from Pregnancy to Postpartum: a Prospective Cohort Study”.


The objectives of this study were to determine if neighborhood measures were associated with physical activity cross-sectionally during late pregnancy (27–30 weeks’ gestation), 3 months postpartum, and 12 months postpartum, and longitudinally with an increase in physical activity from late pregnancy to 12 months postpartum. Data are from the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition (PIN3) and Postpartum Prospective Cohort Study. Dichotomized self-reported recreation and total physical activity hours/week were explored cross-sectionally at three time points, and as an increase over time. Four factors from a neighborhood environmental audit were examined: arterial or thoroughfare, walkable neighborhood, physical incivilities, and decoration. Secondary spatial data included population density, hilliness, intersection density, distance to nearest major road, distance to nearest park, distance to nearest physical activity facility, and distance to nearest bus stop. Multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression models were used to assess the association between environmental variables and physical activity measures. A number of environmental variables were associated with total and recreation physical activity at the three time points in cross-sectional models. For increase in recreation physical activity over time, a moderate distance to nearest major road was significantly associated with increased recreation physical activity from 3 to 12 months postpartum (tertile 2 OR 2.13, 95% CI 1.08, 4.22). Living the furthest distance from the nearest park was inversely associated with an increase in recreation physical activity from pregnancy to 3 months postpartum (tertile 3 OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.29, 0.85). The findings of this study indicate that several aspects of the neighborhood environment, such as walkability, access to transit, distance to recreation facilities, and road networks, are associated with physical activity during different stages of pregnancy and postpartum. Since physical activity may result in long-term health benefits for both the woman and child, environments that support this activity should be encouraged.