The benefits of walking during pregnancy
Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women because it keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles. It’s also a safe activity to continue throughout all nine months of pregnancy and one of the easier ways to start exercising if you haven’t previously been active.
If you’ve been walking, keep it up. If you were fairly inactive before you got pregnant, start with a slow walk and build up to brisk 20- to 30-minute jaunts. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you can safely do moderate exercise for 30 minutes or more most days of the week, provided you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife.
You probably won’t need to change your normal walking habits very much. Make sure you have walking shoes that support the ankles and arches. Protect your skin with sunscreen, no matter what the season; in summer, wear a sun hat and carry a spray bottle filled with water for cooling off. Bring drinking water with you to avoid dehydration, which can cause contractions and raise your body temperature, sometimes to levels that are dangerous for you and your baby. And if it’s very hot and humid outside, go for a walk in an air-conditioned mall or on a treadmill at the gym or at home.
Continue to wear supportive shoes, protect your skin from the sun, and avoid dehydration. Your gait may now be more ungainly, so pay attention to your posture to avoid straining your back: When you walk, keep your chin level, your hips tucked under your shoulders to avoid a sway in your back, and look ahead. Swing your arms for balance and to intensify your workout. You may want to find a buddy to join you on your walks and keep you motivated. Don’t walk outside after dark unless the area is brightly lit — you’re at increased risk of stumbling and falling if you can’t see where you’re going.
Keep up your walking regimen as long as you can, but avoid hiking trails or any uneven terrain that could put you off balance. As you get closer to your due date, you might also want to consider walking on a track. Not only is the surface easier on your body, but you might feel safer knowing that you won’t get stuck far from home or your car in case of an emergency.
Never walk to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use oxygen that should be going to your baby.
Stop walking immediately and call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms: vaginal bleeding, difficulty breathing, dizziness, exercise, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, preterm labor, decreased fetal movement, apparent leakage of amniotic fluid, or contractions.