Original article| Volume 24, ISSUE 4, e389-e395, July 2014

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Linking Nontraditional Physical Activity and Preterm Delivery in Urban African-American Women



      Traditional risk factors for preterm delivery (PTD) do not account for the disparate rates among African-American women. Physical activity during pregnancy may protect women from PTD, but few studies exist in African Americans. Our objective was to examine the relationships between PTD and intensity and duration of leisure time physical activity (LTPA) as well as non-LTPA such as stair climbing and walking for a purpose during pregnancy.


      Data were from a hybrid retrospective/prospective cohort study of urban low-income African-American women enrolled from 2001 to 2004 in the Baltimore PTD Study (n = 832). PTD was defined as birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation. Study participants reported physical activity during prenatal (n = 456) and post-partum (n = 376) interviews.


      The rate of PTD was 16.7%. In unadjusted log-binomial regression models, we found no significant associations. However, in models adjusted for illicit drug use, locus of control, and a validated family resources scale, we found a significant decrease in prevalence of PTD for women who walked for a purpose more than 30 min/d (prevalence ratio, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.43–0.94), compared with women who walked less than or equal to 30 min/d.


      These results suggest that walking for a purpose during pregnancy may confer protection against PTD among urban low-income African Americans.
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      Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson, PhD, MPH, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is a social epidemiologist whose research focuses broadly on minority health disparities.


      Kristy Hegner, MPH, is a registered dietitian whose areas of expertise include nutrition counseling and nutrition education.


      Dawn P. Misra, PhD, MHS, is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is an epidemiologist whose work integrates the social and biologic determinants of prenatal health.