Walking During Pregnancy - Benefits, Tips & Precautions

Walking During Pregnancy

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Walking keeps you healthy and fit, and pregnancy is the best time to experience the many benefits it can provide. Walking is safe throughout the pregnancy period as long as you do not overdo it and your doctor has given her approval.

Benefits Of Walking During Pregnancy?

Is it necessary? Not in particular, but it is a safe and great exercise for pregnant women. It makes sure that you are getting enough exercise you usually require during pregnancy. The benefits of walking, which are hard to ignore, are as follows.

1. Physical Fitness:

Walking in pregnancy period makes you physically fit and active. It is a complete body exercise routine, which improves your cardiovascular health and tones your muscles.

2. Healthy Baby:

Walking will keep you and your baby’s weight in check. It will help achieve healthy baby weight, thereby making the delivery process easy and natural.

3. Lowers Risk of Gestational Diabetes:

High blood sugar levels during pregnancy will keep you at greater risk of type 2 diabetes after delivery and increases the risks of pre-term labor and having an obese baby. Exercises like walking will keep your body weight in control and reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes (1).

[ Read: Gestational Diabetes ]

4. Lowers Risk of Pre-Eclampsia:

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication indicated by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Walking helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces cholesterol, thus balancing blood pressure levels during pregnancy. This way, you could be at lower risk of premature labor that happens due to pre-eclampsia (2).

5. Stress-Buster:

Stress is a common symptom for most pregnant women. Blame it on hormones, but a pregnant woman has mood swings, from happiness and elation to anxiety and depression. Walking, like any other exercise, releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical in the body. It is a great stress-buster and elevates your mood especially on days when you are feeling extremely low.

6. Increases the Chances of Normal Delivery:

Walking during pregnancy increases flexibility and tones up your hip muscles, an excellent means for a faster, easier and pain-free labor. Early morning walk is more helpful for a natural childbirth. When you are in a better shape, you are prepared well for delivery.

[ Read: Pregnancy Exercises for Normal Delivery ]

7. Relieves Aches And Discomforts:

During pregnancy, you may be prone to certain pains and discomforts that develop when you are not active. Walking will help relieve you of this pain and discomfort. The stretching of legs during the walk will help you get rid of the aches.

8. Other Benefits:

Walking will reduce the chances of developing morning sickness, fatigue, cramps, constipation, varicose veins and being sleeplessness especially at nights. Exercising on a regular basis induces sleep and walking every day will help burn off excess energy, therefore promoting sound sleep.

How Much To Walk During Pregnancy?

If you are have the habit of walking regularly before conception, continue doing it. If you are new to walking, start with 15 to 30 minutes of walk, three days in a week and then extend it up to 60 minutes for most days of the week. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and NHS, it is recommended to walk for 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) in a week. You can continue to walk until your third trimester and even after birth as long as you feel comfortable (3).

While walking, you can also do pelvic floor exercises. They help improve strength and prevent weakness of pelvic floor muscles.

[ Read: Pelvic Floor Exercises during pregnancy ]

How To Prepare Yourself For Walking?

  • Use walking shoes to support your arches and ankles. Slippers or sandals should not be used for walking as they cause you to slip.
  • Carry a water bottle to help from dehydration. While walking, there are chances that you may get dehydrated, raising your body temperature. It is not safe for you and your growing fetus.
  • If it is a sunny day, apply sunscreen lotion and wear a hat.
  • While walking, place your heel first and then roll onto the toes.

How Can You Adapt To Walking While Pregnant?

Walking During Pregnancy First Trimester (Up to 13 weeks):

At the beginner fitness level, you should adapt to walking as below:

  • You should primarily focus on sticking to the activity. You can increase the intensity and duration with time.
  • Begin with 15 to 20 minutes walk every alternate day.
  • Gradually, increase it to four days a week and add five more minutes to each walk, if you are comfortable.
  • After a few more weeks, you can increase it to five days a week.
  • When you are at the end of the first trimester, your walk has to be 10 to 20 minutes every day for five days in a week.

At the intermediate fitness level, here is how you can walk:

  • If you are already into occasional walking before you have conceived, you may have to walk for six days a week.
  • Begin with 20-minute walks every day for four days in a week.
  • If you feel you are ready to walk for some more time, increase it to five days and then six days gradually. You should also add a few minutes to each walk.
  • At the end, it has to be 20 to 40 minutes every day for six days in a week.

At the advanced fitness level, you should adapt to walking as below:

  • If you are a fitness freak, you should shift to low impact walking regimen so as to stay active and feel good.
  • Begin with 20 to 30 minutes of walk every day for five days in a week. Increase it to six days gradually and add a few minutes to each walk.
  • You may also add stairs or hills, but do not go beyond an RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) of 7.
  • At the end, your walk should be 30 to 60 minutes every day for six days in a week.

Walking During Pregnancy Second Trimester (13 to 25 weeks):

In your second trimester, as a beginner, you may adapt to walking as follows:

  • You can begin with 10 minutes walk every day for four to five days in a week.
  • When you feel you are ready, extend your walk to one more day and walk longer (15 to 30 minutes) for two days in a week.
  • By the end of this trimester, your walk has to be 15 to 30 minutes every day for four to six days in a week.

At intermediate level, here is how you can adapt to walking:

  • You may gradually increase your walking time, but make sure not to push yourself if you are exhausted.
  • Begin with 20 minutes every day for four to six days in a week. You may slowly add a few minutes every day so that the total time will be at least 30 to 40 minutes a day.
  • You may also walk for 10 to 15 minutes, increasing your RPE by one level, one or two times a week in between your regular walks.
  • By end of this trimester, you should walk 25 to 40 minutes every day for five to six days in a week.

At the advanced fitness level, you may adapt to walking as below:

  • If you are feeling good, you may continue to increase your walking length and pick up the pace in between.
  • Begin with 30 to 40 minutes of walk every day for six days in a week.
  • Choose one day where you can walk for 50 minutes, including climbing stairs or hills, but try to be within an RPE of 7.
  • Gradually, increase the length of your shorter walks to 40 to 50 minutes for the remaining days.
  • When you are at the end, your walk has to be 40 to 50 minutes every day for five to six days in a week; and 60 minutes for one day in a week.

[ Read: Safe Exercises During Second Trimester ]

Tips To Follow During Second Trimester:

  • Your belly starts to show up and therefore you may feel ungainly. Pay more attention to your posture to avoid straining of your back.
  • Keep your back straight, look ahead and tuck your hips under your shoulders to avoid curvature at your back.
  • Swing arms for balance and to increase the pace if you want.
  • Do not walk when it is dark as you might stumble or fall.
  • Do not walk beyond the point of weariness.

Walking During Pregnancy Third Trimester (26 to 40 weeks):

In your third trimester, as a beginner, you may start walking as follows:

  • Stick to five to six days a week, but slow down if you are not able to walk with your growing belly.
  • If you are a beginner at the third trimester, begin with 10 minutes of walk every day for four to six days in a week.
  • You can break down the walking sessions or decrease the lengths if you feel your energy is low.
  • Gradually, add a few minutes to your walking length and also increase the days per week.
  • You should be walking 15 to 30 minutes every day for five to six days in a week by the end.

At your intermediate level, here is how you can adapt to walking:

  • You should maintain speed and distance at a consistent level. However, you have to aim to walk for the same length in a week, whenever you can.
  • Begin with 10 to 20 minutes of walk every day for four to six days in a week.
  • You can break down the walking sessions or decrease the lengths if you feel your energy level is low. Reduce the distance and speed of walking as you progress towards your pregnancy. You may also take a break for one day in between.
  • At the end, you should be walking 20 to 45 minutes every day for five to six days in a week.

If you are an advanced exerciser, here is how you can indulge in walking:

  • Begin with 20 to 50 minutes of walk every day for four to six days in a week.
  • You may slowly increase the pace of your walks, but try to be within an RPE of 7.
  • You can break your walking sessions into shorter lengths to feel comfortable.
  • By the third trimester, your walk has to be 25 to 50 minutes every day for five to six days in a week.

[ Read: Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy ]

Tips To Follow During Third Trimester:

  • Your walking session can be as long as you can, but you have to avoid uneven paths and steep regions that may cause imbalance.
  • If you experience any back or pelvic pain while walking, you should immediately take it to your doctor’s notice so that they may refer to a physiotherapist.
  • If you are nearing your due date, prefer walking on track.
  • As a general rule of thumb, you should not be panting when you perform any exercise during pregnancy. If you happen to breathe hardly or cannot carry a conversation while walking, slow down and stop for sometime. Walk slowly, rest in between and ensure you perform a proper walking technique (4).

When Should You See A Doctor?

You have to seek medical advice immediately if you suffer from any of the following symptoms while walking:

  • Dizziness, exhaustion, breathlessness, fainting, contractions, blurred vision, vaginal bleeding, muscle weakness, chest pain, decreased fetal movements, swelling or pain in the calf, and amniotic fluid leakage.
  • Also, if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease or high risk associated pregnancies, you should consult your doctor before you start exercising.

[ Read: Safe Cardio Exercises During Pregnancy ]

Pregnancy Safe Walking Tips:

If you feel comfortable walking and moving around during pregnancy, you should follow the below tips to enjoy its benefits.

  • You may use a maternity belt available in medical stores as it helps improve the posture during walking.
  • You may drink about half a glass of milk or half a piece of apple before you go for a walk. Also, you can consume tender coconut water soon after you come back from walking.
  • Look forward while walking, to avoid sudden falls.
  • Do not walk too fast, but develop your own comfortable pace. Brisk walking when pregnant helps your heart and lungs work efficiently without causing any physical damage to knees and ankles.
  • Stretch yourself thoroughly both before and after a walk. It offers relaxation to muscles and ligaments, thus warming you up. It also improves flexibility and removes the soreness that you may experience.
  • When you begin walking, you may experience hip or pelvic soreness initially. Stretching can only help relieve soreness.
  • If you feel hot, breathless or tired, take a break. Do not allow your body to heat up as it can cause preterm contractions.
  • Walk carefully as your center of gravity will shift with the expanding belly.
  • You can listen to some music if you are walking in a calm area where there are not many distractions.
  • Aim for a healthy workout routine, which may include 30 minutes walk or 20 minutes yoga plus 20 minutes of walk.
  • Walk with an accomplice who can keep you motivated.
  • You can also walk to a shop, office or friend’s place as a part of the walking routine.
  • You may even get down one stop before so as to take a leisure walk.
  • Use stairs instead of elevators so that you will get the chance to walk.

[ Read: Climbing Stairs During Pregnancy ]

  • If it is too hot outside, go for a walk in an air-conditioned area or avoid walking on those days. You can also try swimming instead of walking.
  • Take a break when you feel like resting and do not overdo as your body may then use oxygen that is meant for the baby inside.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Walking Induce Labor?

Walking is one of the commonly recommended ways to induce labor naturally. Gravity works here. While walking, the baby moves farther down along the cervix. It also applies rhythmic pressure and the pressure stimulates your body to release oxytocin hormones, which regulate and trigger contractions. A dilated cervix and correctly positioned fetus are the leading causes of labor and thus, walking speeds up the process.

2. Is it bad to walk too much during pregnancy?

Walking is one of the best exercises, and it is not at all bad to walk too much during pregnancy. You can get started depending on the level of your fitness before your conception. Staying active is beneficial for both you and your baby. Consult your healthcare provider before you begin the walking regime.

Hope our post helps you understand why walking is good during pregnancy. If you have any more suggestions or points to discuss, please feel free to share in the comment section.

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