Walking for Exercise in Pregnancy

Walking While Pregnant
Walking While Pregnant. Erik Isakson/Blend Images/Getty Images

Walking is one of the best exercises you can enjoy throughout pregnancy. While pregnancy will lead to changes in your feet and stride, with some modifications you can keep moving and get the amount of exercise you need each day for health. Walking can help prevent constipation and can help you get a better night's rest. Even if you haven't been a walker before, you can get started now.

How Far and How Often Should You Walk During Pregnancy?

If you already walk, keep up your regular program. To get started, walk 20 to 30 minutes a day three days a week and build from there to 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (such as brisk walking) during pregnancy. Walking for exercise can continue into your last trimester and right up until birth as long as it is comfortable for you.

How Fast and How Hard Should Your Walk While Pregnant?

Moderation is the word during pregnancy, so don't push yourself to the extreme. The chemical byproducts and raised body temperature of overexertion are bad for the fetus. You can use the "talk test" to determine your exertion level: you should be able to speak in complete sentences without having to huff, puff, and gasp just to get out short phrases. A pulse more than 100 beats per minute five minutes after a workout means you've worked your body too hard. 

Drink water before, during, and after your walk to help regulate your core body temperature. The fetus cannot get rid of excessive heat, so avoid exercising in hot weather and keep your walking workout moderate. Consider mall walking as an alternative during hot weather.

Posture Is Important for Pregnant Walkers

A good walking posture is essential and can help prevent a backache.

  • Stand up straight: Think of being a tall and straight, do not arch your back.
  • Do not lean forward or lean back: Leaning puts a strain on the back muscles.
  • Eyes forward: not looking down but rather 20 feet ahead.
  • Chin up (parallel to the ground): This reduces strain on neck and back.
  • Loosen the shoulders: Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, your shoulders slightly back.
  • Suck in your stomach
  • Tuck in your behind: Rotate your hips forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back.

Prevent Constipation

If you have difficulty with constipation during pregnancy, walking is a natural, drug-free remedy. Walking provides the motion that helps your body move food through your system. Just be sure you are drinking enough water to help with this process as well.

The Pregnant Foot

Your body's center of mass shifts during pregnancy. You may need shoes with more support. Foot and ankle swelling can also be a problem during pregnancy, you may have to go up a shoe size or width for comfort. Hormones during pregnancy relax the ligaments, which can contribute to foot strain. See a podiatric physician if problems develop.

Cautions

Stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms such as dizziness, pain, or bleeding.

No Marathons

Marathons, whether you walk or run, are not recommended for pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy. If you have enlisted in a charity marathon program, ask to transfer to a date after your delivery, or ask if there is a half-marathon option. "Just walking" a marathon will raise your body temperature, exhaust your body's energy stores, and could endanger your baby. If you enjoy walking longer distances, limit yourself to a half-marathon (13 miles) and monitor your heart rate. Take in 200 calories per hour and a cup of water every 30 minutes on longer walks to replace your energy stores for the health of the baby.

Keep on Walking

Put a walking/jogging stroller on your wish list. After the birth, walk together as a family each evening to exercise, relieve stress, and take time to chat. Non-competitive walking events hosted by volkssport clubs provide a free or inexpensive family entertainment.

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