Kara M. Whitaker

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Kara Whitaker
Assistant Professor
Health Promotion
Exercise Science
physical activity and sedentary behavior epidemiology, pregnancy and postpartum, cardiometabolic health, behavioral interventions, health disparities
End Degree:
MPH in Physical Activity, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 2011; PhD in Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 2015; Postdoc in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
E116 FH
Email: Laboratory:
Physical Activity and Women’s Health Lab
Lab Website:


Courses Taught

  • HHP 2500: Psychological Aspects of Sport and Physical Activity

  • HHP 6500: Seminar in Health Promotion

Educational/Research Interests

My research examines the social and behavioral determinants of physical activity, healthy eating, and obesity. I also study the effects of physical activity and sedentary lifestyles on cardiometabolic risk factors. Overarching themes across my research are maternal-child health and health disparities, and much of my work has been with racially diverse pregnant women. My work to date has focused on building an evidence base to inform the development of interventions that promote physical activity, healthy eating, and weight control to optimize cardiometabolic health, particularly in traditionally understudied populations. I am especially interested in working with women during pregnancy as this is a critical time period where interventions have the potential to positively impact the health of both the mother and child.


For a full list of Dr. Whitaker’s publications, go to: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=1q0M5v0AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao


Notable publications:

1.      Whitaker K.M., Marino R.C., Haapala J.L., Foster L., Smith K.D.,  Jacobs D.R., Fontaine P.L., McGovern P.M., Schoenfuss T.C., Harnack L., Fields D.A., Demerath E.W. (2017). Associations of Maternal Weight Status Before, During, and After Pregnancy with Inflammatory Markers in Breast Milk. Obesity, 25(12), 2092-2099.

2.      Whitaker K.M., Everson-Rose S.A., Pankow J.S., Rodriguez C.J., Lewis T.T., Kershaw K.N., Diez Roux A.V., Lutsey P.L. (2017). Experiences of Discrimination and Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Am J Epidemiol, 186(4), 445-455.

3.      Whitaker, K. M., Pereira, M. A., Jacobs, D. R., Jr., Sidney, S., & Odegaard, A. O.  (2017). Sedentary Behavior, Physical Activity, and Abdominal Adipose Tissue Deposition. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 49(3), 450-458.

4.      Whitaker, K. M., Wilcox, S., Liu, J., Blair, S. N., & Pate, R. R. (2016). Provider Advice and Women's Intentions to Meet Weight Gain, Physical Activity, and Nutrition Guidelines During Pregnancy. Matern Child Health J, 20(11), 2309-2317.

5.      Whitaker, K. M., Choh, A. C., Lee, M., Towne, B., Czerwinski, S. A., & Demerath, E. W. (2016). Sex differences in the rate of abdominal adipose accrual during adulthood: The Fels Longitudinal Study. Int J Obes, 40(8), 1278-85.

6.      Whitaker, K. M., Wilcox, S., Liu, J., Blair, S. N., & Pate, R. R. (2016). African American and White women's perceptions of weight gain, physical activity, and nutrition during pregnancy. Midwifery, 34, 211-220.

7.      Whitaker, K. M., Wilcox, S., Liu, J., Blair, S. N., & Pate, R. R. (2016). Pregnant women's perceptions of weight gain, physical activity, and nutrition using Theory of Planned Behavior constructs. J Behav Med, 39(1), 41-54.                

8.      Whitaker, K. M., Wilcox, S., Liu, J., Blair, S. N., & Pate, R. R. (2016). Patient and Provider Perceptions of Weight Gain, Physical Activity, and Nutrition Counseling during Pregnancy: A Qualitative Study. Women's Health Issues, 26(1), 116-122.

9.      Whitaker, K. M., Sharpe, P. A., Wilcox, S., & Hutto, B. E. (2014). Depressive symptoms are associated with dietary intake but not physical activity among overweight and obese women from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Nutr Res, 34(4), 294-301.

10.  Whitaker, K., Young-Hyman, D., Vernon, M., & Wilcox, S. (2014). Maternal stress predicts postpartum weight retention. Matern Child Health J, 18(9), 2209-2217.

11.  Goodrich, K., Cregger, M., Wilcox, S., & Liu, J. (2013). A qualitative study of factors affecting pregnancy weight gain in African American women. Matern Child Health J, 17(3), 432-440.


  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • American Heart Association
  • Society of Behavioral Medicine