Longitudinal changes in walking cadence across pregnancy and postpartum

Gait Posture. 2020 Jun;79:234-238. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2020.05.012. Epub 2020 May 14.


Background: Physical activity during pregnancy has many health benefits yet few pregnant women meet US guidelines for physical activity. Traditionally, physical activity has been measured as time spent in moderate and/or vigorous intensity activity, but quantifying intensity is challenging. There is increasing interest in measuring both daily steps and stepping rate, or cadence, as an indicator of physical activity overall and intensity of that activity.

Research question: Does free-living step cadence change across pregnancy (from 20 weeks to 32 weeks) and postpartum (12 weeks postpartum) when data is collected via hip-worn ActiGraph (ActiGraph Corp., Pensacola, FL) accelerometers?

Methods: A total of n = 32 pregnant women were enrolled in a longitudinal study of physical activity during pregnancy; these women wore accelerometers on their right hip for one week at 20 weeks gestation, again at 32 weeks gestation, and at 12 weeks postpartum. Data were used to determine total daily steps, time spent (min/day) in various cadence ranges, minutes spent at >100 and >130 steps/min as well as mean, median, maximum, and peak cadences.

Results: Pregnant women accumulated significantly fewer steps per day in the third trimester compared to second (1164 steps/day less) or postpartum (1397 steps/day less) time points. Third trimester women also spent significantly fewer minutes/day in MVPA (cadences ≥100 steps/minute; 4.1 min/day less) and had a significantly lower peak cadence (10.6 steps/min less), compared to second trimester only.

Significance: These data indicate that pregnant women take fewer steps and walk at slower cadences in the third trimester compared to second and to postpartum, which indicates that total PA as well as absolute intensity of PA are altered during pregnancy.

Keywords: Cadence; Exercise; Maternal; Mother; Physical activity; Pregnancy; Step rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adult
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / physiology*
  • Walking Speed / physiology*