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Walking is suggested to be one of the best exercises by most health professionals. It is a low impact exercise concerning its impact on the joints and heart, but it helps the body fight against all sorts of chronic diseases. A 30-45 minute walk can help in reducing weight, decrease chances of cardiovascular disorders, improve blood circulation, strengthen bones and muscles, and also boost the body’s immune system. During pregnancy, this has many benefits and helps the mother stay fit and healthy.
Why Should You Walk During Pregnancy?
It is essential to maintain your health and also adjust to all the changes happening in your body. Walking is one of the best ways to do this. It is recommended as the best cardiovascular exercise for women during pregnancy and walking every day keeps the body fit and does not require any specialized equipment, fixed hours or extra cost. It is a safe exercise that the mother can do throughout nine months of pregnancy after consulting with the doctor. Even if the mother was not into exercising before pregnancy, it is entirely safe for her to start walking during pregnancy.
When Should You Start Walking?
You can start walking right from the first day of pregnancy. Walking is an exercise that can be done throughout the pregnancy and has almost no health risks. During each trimester, certain tips and precautions should be kept in mind. Most importantly, discuss with your doctor and seek their advice before starting any exercise.
What are the Benefits of Walking During Pregnancy?
Walking is good for pregnancy and considered to be the best exercise for pregnant women.
- Physical fitness: Walking keeps your muscles toned and keeps you active.
- Ease Discomfort: Leg aches and discomfort due to growing belly are handled better by regular walks.
- Regulating Weight Gain: Although weight gain is natural during this phase, daily walks help avoid gaining any extra calories.
- Avoid Gestational Diabetes: Women are prone to type-2 diabetes during pregnancy. Walking helps control blood sugar levels, thus reducing the risk.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: Women with high blood pressure conditions are prone to a complication called pre-eclampsia in which premature labour is common. Walking maintains the blood cholesterol levels, thereby controlling the blood pressure.
- Helps with Pregnancy-Related Problems: Problems like morning sickness, cramps and constipation are commonly faced during pregnancy. Walking has been known to ease all these conditions.
- Induce Labour Easily: The hip muscles get toned during walking which helps in having a more relaxed labour.
- Boost the Mother Emotionally: Walking outdoors gives a change of environment which tends to uplift the mood and acts as a stress-buster. Having a walking group offers you the opportunity to meet new people and socialise.
- Healthier Baby: Walking keeps not only your weight in check but also the baby’s weight. This further makes the process of delivery easier.
- Easy to Adopt: Walking is easy to follow and does not require any extra equipment or extra cost.
How to Prepare for Walking
Keep a few pointers in mind before starting your routine. First, consult with your healthcare provider. They will be able to advise you the best about how much exercise and the intensity to be followed. Next, before starting off with walking, it is imperative to have the right shoes.
Walking shoes of the correct size are recommended. Also, keep a check on your shoe size since your feet might swell and you might require a larger size. Gel liners can be used for better shock absorbance. Use a good sunscreen or sunblock if you are walking during daytime and also keep yourself well hydrated.
How Long Should You Walk?
This depends on your exercise routine before pregnancy and also which trimester you are. Overall, a 45-60 minute walk during the first two trimesters and 30-minute walk during the third trimester for 5 days a week is good enough during the pregnancy. During pregnancy, more than staying active, it is about the comfort of the body.
How Can You Adapt Walking Exercise Throughout Your Pregnancy?
Depending on the fitness level before pregnancy, you should incorporate walking during the pregnancy accordingly.
In First Trimester
In this trimester, depending on the fitness level prior to pregnancy, the mother should accordingly incorporate walking during the first trimester. Mothers who weren’t exercising regularly should start off with 10-20 minute walks for 3 days a week, and by the end of the trimester they can scale it up to 15-20 minutes for at least 5 days a week. Women who had been exercising or doing other types of work out can start with 20-30 minutes for 4 days a week and scale it up to 40-60 minutes for 6 days a week by the trimester ends.
In Second Trimester
In the second trimester, morning sickness reduces significantly and is an excellent time to pick up the pace for walking. Beginners can scale up their walking to 5-6 days a week with 20-30 minutes per day. For those who were intermediate or regular should focus on increasing their pace and achieve 30-50 minutes of walking per day for 6 days a week. You can even include one day in a week with 60 minutes of walking.
In Third Trimester
In the third trimester, the pace needs to be dropped. In this trimester, the mother should focus on feeling comfortable and also be active. Walking as per your mood and convenience. Maintaining the same timings as the second trimester and reducing the pace is advisable. Also, reduce the number of days of walking during the week. This trimester is all about relaxing and well-being for the mother.
Tips for Safe Pregnancy Walking
In addition to following all the tips, there are some general precautions the mother should take care of. Before including walking in your routine, consult your doctor about the routine and intensity. Always remember to warm up before going for a walk. This can involve some stretching and a fast-paced walk for 2-3 minutes. It is also okay to take breaks as and when you feel exhausted or even skip a day. It is important to keep listening to your body and feeling good during the walk.
In First Trimester
Morning sickness is common in this trimester, and the body undergoes a lot of changes. You should be walking as and when you are comfortable. Increase the duration of the walks gradually.
In Second Trimester
Since this trimester is ideal to pick up the pace during the walking sessions, one can also concentrate on maintaining a good body form with shoulders back and head up. Along with walking, swinging the arms can make the session more intense and also give the body a better balance. Besides all this, the mother should not overexert herself.
In Third Trimester
During the third trimester, it is essential to keep in mind the body posture. Wearing a belly support band or belt during the walks aids the belly and lower back. This can be helpful for avoiding soreness in the lower back. Take breaks whenever required while walking and do not try to push it to your previous duration or length of walking compared to the earlier trimesters. Always carry your phone if you are walking alone or inform someone and stay connected.
Watch out for Signs to Slow Down
Walking during pregnancy has a lot of benefits, but it is important that you don’t push yourself too much during this period. Walking till breathlessness or exhaustion is not good. During the walk, you should be able to talk without gasping for breath.
Always take breaks whenever you feel tired or slow down. Staying hydrated is also essential. Vaginal bleeding (especially during 2nd and 3rd trimester), joint pains, swelling in calf or at joints, chest pains and dizziness are some extreme signs to look out for and should consult with the doctor before continuing the exercise routine.
Following are a few commonly asked questions:
Can Walking during Pregnancy Induce Labour?
Studies show that women who regularly walk during their pregnancy have a shorter and more comfortable labour. While walking, there is a rhythmic pressure on the uterus which leads to the production of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for inducing labour, and also due to walking, the baby tends to move down towards the cervix giving correct positioning for the baby for a natural delivery. Further, walking helps tone the body muscles and mainly the hip muscles, which can lead to faster and low labour pain. Walking during pregnancy for normal delivery has been reported in studies in which mothers included an early morning walking session.
Can Too Much Walking During Pregnancy Cause any Problem?
It is imperative to maintain a balance between extremes. According to surveys, it is suggested that during the 1st and 2nd trimester, a 45-minute walk per day is good. As you approach the 3rd trimester, the walking exercise can be toned down to 20-30 minutes per day. There will be signs if the body feels overexerted or exhausted from the workout. One primary concern is overheating of the body from too much walking. Although this usually doesn’t happen but on a hot day or working out without proper ventilation can result in this. Overheating of the body means overheating for the baby too which is not good.
Walking is a great exercise during pregnancy and has a lot of benefits. It is one exercise which is easy to follow and easy to adapt. Keep a few things in mind developing a daily routine, and you can enjoy a healthy and fit pregnancy.
Also Read: Exercises You Should Avoid When Pregnant