Pregnancy is a critical phase in any woman’s life. It comes with uncertainties and fears (of labor and childbirth). Getting your body prepared for that arduous phase, is the best you can do for yourself and for the baby. Walking during pregnancy is the most recommended cardiovascular exercise. But we often come across moms-to-be concerned about the risks.
Is It Good or Bad to Walk During Pregnancy?
It definitely is good, to walk during pregnancy. Physicians around the globe, recommend pregnant women to opt for a regular walk through all the stages (trimesters) of pregnancy. All that a pregnant woman needs, is the modification in walking style or duration, in each trimester. Physicians recommend moderate walking in the first two trimesters and then it should be continued in the last trimester for a comparatively longer time. Moreover, there might be some health conditions that demand a moderate walking routine or no walking at all.
Benefits of Walking
According to US Department of Health and Human Services, walk plays the role of a stress buster during pregnancy. The more you walk, the clearer mind you get. When we walk, our body releases a feel-good hormone (endorphins) and we feel an evidently positive change in our mood.
Having a fit and healthy body during pregnancy is essential for a normal delivery process. Walk ensures fitness and low cholesterol level (balanced blood pressure). The fitter you are, the easier it will be to carry the growing baby inside you. Women who do not opt for walking during pregnancy are quite likely to gain an extra amount of weight. Being overweight in pregnancy means complications in delivery or a premature (or large) baby.
Reduction in Fluid Buildup
Production of fluids in the body parts like feet, ankles and legs, is a common pregnancy symptom. This may result in inflammation (common complaint by pregnant women). Movement of these body parts is the best way to get rid of that fluid buildup. Walking is the easiest way to do that.
Cure for Muscular Pain
With pregnancy, women experience different types of muscular pains particularly in the abdominal areas (back pain). When you feel pain, instead of resting, we recommend you to move around. Walking improves circulation and you get stronger muscles.
Strengthens Your Upper Body
That constant movement of arms while walking strengthens your upper body and creates flexibility.
Prevents Other Pregnancy Conditions
There are certain pregnancy-related complications that are best prevented by a regular walking routine. These conditions may include gestational diabetes, nausea, varicose veins, irregular bowel movement, pre-eclampsia (high cholesterol level and excess of protein in urine), morning sickness and sleepless nights.
Prepares Your Body for Labor
Facing your labor pain is the biggest challenge in pregnancy. Walking regularly not just increases the endurance level of body, it also tones up the hip muscles. In short, it eases the labor process and reduces its duration. Experts suggest morning walk to be the best option during pregnancy.
How Much to Walk?
Most of the physicians recommend 30 to 60 (for women with high fitness level) minutes’ walk during pregnancy. But it may vary with each woman. If you are a regular walker, you better continue with your previous routine. But if this is the first time, you’re going to walk, start it from 10 minutes and gradually increase it to 30 or 60 minutes, five days in a week.
When to Stop Walking
In spite of all the benefits of walking during pregnancy, there are certain health conditions where pregnant women are supposed to stop walking immediately.
bleeding or abnormal vaginal secretion
getting out of breath and exhausted
dehydration and thirst
pain in abdominal or pelvic area (wait for 24 hours, if the pain persists, consult your doctor)
instant inflammation in any body part
reduction in fetal movement
to have abnormal heart rate (more than 140 bpm)
Note: Women who experience high body temperature during pregnancy may give birth to baby with congenital defects.
What to Do?
You have to experience such (above-mentioned) symptoms when you overdo walking. You must walk in a moderate way to keep the exertion level low, especially when you are a patient of high blood pressure. Discontinue walking and consult your physician. Start walking only after his/her consultation.
Best Recommendations for Walking in Pregnancy
If it’s a hot or sunny day outside, don’t forget to wear your sunscreen and a hat. You must have a water bottle to intake water from time to time. It’s the best way to prevent dehydration.
Find the safest and leveled grounds for walking to prevent any mishaps.
Falling and stumbling down is very common during pregnancy. To avoid that risk, you better buy the shoes that are designed for safe walking. Most importantly, shoes should fit you perfectly.
By the time you enter your second or third trimester, you tend to be more careful. As pregnancy progresses, the baby inside you gains weight. This very growth of fetus directly affects your center of gravity and that may cause misbalance while walking. For this stage, you are advised to wear light hiking shoes as it gives more fraction.
Never go for walking alone. Walking with a group of friends or family member is not just good for your safety but you will enjoy your walking sessions as well. If there is no one to join you, make sure you are carrying your cellphone.
Do not opt for too long walking paths. Stay close to your home. In case you feel exhausted, it would be easier for you to get back home.
For walking during pregnancy, physicians recommend consistency, not intensity. Instead of acting too vigorously for walking, you better make sure, you are doing it regularly.
Your clothing for walk should be loose and airy for an easy breathing and comfort.