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Walking is one of the best exercises and is recommended by most health professionals. Though it is a low impact exercise, considering its impact on the joints and heart, it helps the body fight against all sorts of chronic diseases. A 30-45 minute walk can help in reducing weight, decreasing chances of cardiovascular disorders, improving blood circulation, strengthening bones and muscles, and also boosting the body’s immune system. During pregnancy, walking has many benefits and helps the mother stay fit and healthy.
It is essential to remain active and also adjust to all the changes happening in your body during pregnancy. Walking is one of the best ways to do this. It is regarded as the best cardiovascular exercise for women during pregnancy. 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 the nine months of pregnancy after consulting with the doctor. Even if the mother did not exercise before pregnancy, it is entirely safe for her to walk during pregnancy.
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 his advice before starting any exercise.
Walking is good for pregnancy and considered to be the best exercise for pregnant women.
- Physical Fitness: Walking tones your muscles and keeps you active.
- Pain and Discomfort: Leg aches and discomfort due to growing belly are eased by regular walks.
- Weight Gain: Although weight gain is natural during this phase, daily walks keep it at a healthy level.
- Gestational Diabetes: Women are prone to type-2 diabetes during pregnancy, and walking helps control blood sugar levels, thus, reducing the risk.
- Blood Pressure: Women with high blood pressure 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.
- Pregnancy-Related Problems: Problems like morning sickness, cramps and constipation are commonly faced during pregnancy. Walking has been known to ease all these conditions.
- Labour: The hip muscles get toned during walking, which helps in having a more relaxed labour.
- Emotions: Walking outdoors is 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.
- Health of the Baby: Walking keeps not only your weight in check, but also the baby’s weight. This further makes the process of delivery easier.
- Dedication: Walking is easy to do every day and does not require any extra equipment or 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 intensity should 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 up requiring 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 keep yourself well hydrated.
This depends on your exercise routine before pregnancy and also which trimester you are in. Overall, a 45-60 minute walk during the first two trimesters and 30-minute walk during the third trimester for five days a week is good enough during pregnancy. More than just staying active, it is also about how comfortable you are during pregnancy.
Depending on the fitness level before pregnancy, you should accordingly incorporate walking during pregnancy.
In this trimester, depending on the fitness level prior to pregnancy, the mother should accordingly incorporate walking. Mothers who weren’t exercising regularly should start off with 10-20 minute walks for three days a week, and by the end of the trimester, they can scale it up to 15-20 minutes for at least five days a week. Women who had been exercising or working out can start with 20-30 minutes for four days a week and scale it up to 40-60 minutes for six days a week, before the trimester ends.
In the second trimester, morning sickness reduces significantly, and it is an excellent time to pick up the pace for walking. Beginners can scale up their walking to five to six days a week with 20-30 minutes per day. Those who were intermediate or regular should focus on increasing their pace and achieve 30-50 minutes of walking per day for six days a week. You can even include one day in a week with 60 minutes of walking.
In the third trimester, the pace needs to be dropped. In this trimester, the mother should focus on feeling comfortable and also be active. Walk as per your mood and convenience. Maintaining the same timings as the second trimester, but reducing the pace is advised. Also, reduce the number of days of walking during the week. This trimester is all about relaxing and preparing for delivery.
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 two to three 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 as you walk.
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.
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 better balance. Besides all this, the mother should not overexert herself.
During the third trimester, it is essential to keep in mind body posture. Wearing a belly support band or belt while walking supports 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 push yourself. Always carry your phone if you are walking alone or inform someone and stay connected.
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 or slow down when you feel tired. 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 you should consult with the doctor before continuing the exercise routine.
Following are a few commonly asked questions:
1. 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, in the correct position for a natural delivery. Further, walking helps tone the body muscles, especially those in the hip, which can lead to a faster labour with less pain. Walking during pregnancy for a normal delivery has been reported in studies in which mothers included an early morning walking session.
2. 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, walking on a hot day or working out without proper ventilation can result in this. Overheating of the body means overheating for the baby, 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 while developing a daily routine, and you can enjoy a healthy and fit pregnancy.
Also Read: Exercises You Should Avoid When Pregnant