Your pregnancy will be a time of tremendous physical and emotional changes. A recent study done by Duke University researcher Herman Pontzer found that “pregnancy is the longest duration, highest-energy-expenditure thing that humans can do.” The study compared pregnancy to running a 40 week marathon. This is a time when we really need to be nourishing, resting, and taking care of our bodies. One of the best ways to do this is through a regular exercise routine. One of the safest options regardless of your physical health is walking. I’m going to go into the many benefits of walking during pregnancy and why you need to start incorporating it now!
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Why you Should Walk During Pregnancy
The majority of women who are pregnant are currently insufficiently active. Only about 14-23% of pregnant women are currently meeting the recommended physical activity levels. Although this number may be slightly off as there are some limitations in this particular study
[‘]=. It did not include walking for transportation or work related activities.
It is probably safe to say that still many pregnant women are not as active as they should be. If you are thinking of getting pregnant start incorporating walking now. Being sedentary during pregnancy can take a toll on your body and increase your risk for pregnancy related complications.
Is it Safe?
I know I was not as active in my pregnancies as I should have been, because I was afraid of increasing my physical activity during pregnancy due to not being very active prior.
There is this arbitrary rule that is out there that many physicians still recommend. It is that when pregnant your heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm. This is an arbitrary number that is not actually supported by scientific evidence.
It is perfectly safe for pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or who are highly active to continue that physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period. This is as long as they stay healthy and discuss any adjustments needed with their personal physician.
For those women who have not been physically active prior to pregnancy consult with your provider about what would be safe for you and your situation. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as walking is perfectly safe for healthy women who are not already highly active.
Walking is not your only option of safe aerobic activities. Check out this list of 7 healthy workouts for pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated: bring some water with you when you head out for your walk.
- Bring a snack: if you are someone who feels they need to eat frequently bring a small snack with you that you can eat on the go.
- Avoid extreme conditions: It can be dangerous for anyone, but especially you if you are pregnant, to walk in extreme heat, cold, or stormy weather. You can always walk on a treadmill indoors if needed.
- Listen to your body: You know your body best, so if you are feeling pain or discomfort consider stopping, resting, and trying again later. If it continues check with your provider.
- Bring your cell phone: As an avid runner I have learned to never leave my cellphone behind when I am walking or running. You never know when you will need to call someone to rescue you.
- Wear supportive shoes: Having good supportive shoes will allow you to participate in brisk walking without injury.
- Wear appropriate clothing: Just as important as proper footwear make sure you are wearing comfortable clothing that is suitable for the weather.
Benefits of Walking During Pregnancy
So what are the benefits of walking during pregnancy? There a ton of benefits of walking during pregnancy. This is not an all inclusive list, but are some major benefits that should improve your overall pregnancy and birth experience. If you are on the fence about incorporating walking into your regular daily routine check out these list of benefits of walking during pregnancy.
Reduces many Pregnancy Complication Risks
The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and the U.S. Department of Health both recognize that a moderate regular walking can decrease the risk of gestational diabetes by 20%, preeclampsia by 33%, excessive gestational weight gain by 29-44%, preterm birth, and postpartum weight retention. It also increases the likelihood of your baby having a healthy birth weight.
Improved Cardiac Health
Walking helps to strengthen the heart and improve circulation. This can in turn reduce the risk of high blood pressure and other related pregnancy complications.
Improves Labor Experience
Often improving your physical health in pregnancy will lead to a more positive labor experience. The moderate regular exercises strengthens muscles and increases endurance which prepares you for the tremendous physical experience that is birth.
Eases Back Pain and Other Pregnancy Related Discomforts
It is common to experience back pain, leg cramps, and swelling in pregnancy as your hormones will make your ligaments loose and stretchy. This can cause a lot of these discomforts along with carrying an ever growing baby. Regular walking can help improve many of these symptoms. It can also help improve your posture and strengthen your muscles to help avoid injury.
Promotes Healthy Weight Gain
Gaining weight is a natural and healthy part of pregnancy, but it is important to gain a healthy amount of weight. Walking during pregnancy helps promote healthy weight gain by burning calories and improving metabolism.
Reduces Risk of Preterm Labor
Preterm labor is anytime prior to 37 weeks. Walking helps reduce the risk by increasing circulation and reducing stress.
Improves Sleep Quality
Sleep can be hard to come by in pregnancy due to having other young children, work schedule, and physical and hormonal changes in pregnancy. Walking improves sleep quality in all stages of pregnancy
Hormones will contribute to your bowels slowing down, which can lead to constipation. Regular walking with proper hydration and a healthy diet will improve constipation during pregnancy.
Boosts Mood & Helps Manage Stress
Physical activity such as walking can release chemicals in our brain that stimulate relaxation and improve our mood. It also increases blood flow to our brain and body which improves how we feel and how we think. Meditation or practicing mindfulness can help to improve your mood and manage stress during pregnancy.
How to Stay Motivated
Even when you understand the benefits of walking during pregnancy, it doesn’t always make it easy. There are many perfectly good reasons why you may want to skip your daily walk. However, I know that if something is important to you, and this should be one of them, you will make it happen. Here are a few tips to help you stay motivated.
- Find an accountability partner: Find a friend that can walk with you and hold you accountable. If you don’t know someone already consider reaching out to someone through a community Facebook group or pregnancy support group.
- Track it: I like to use a free daily tracker app to see my progress when trying to establish a new habit. This helps me to personally stay motivated to keep going with a new habit I’m trying to implement in my life.
- Remind yourself of the why: You have learned the benefits of walking during pregnancy, but in a few days you might forget why you are doing it. Try to regularly remind yourself why it is worth it by writing your “WHY” where you can see it.
- Walk where you feel good: For some people that is the gym. For others they will enjoy walking outside so much more. Find what works best to motivate you.
- Make it Easy: Be prepared and set aside the time in advance so it is easy to walk out the door and do it. If you plan it in your day you are less likely to talk yourself out of it.
- Keep it short: If you need to start with just 10-15 minutes a day to start building the habit, then do it. No one said you need to walk 30 minutes a day right away. It is something you can work up to.
- Have something good to listen to: Find a favorite podcast, audiobook, or build your own playlist that you will look forward to listening to and motivate you to keep walking everyday.
- Pick a time of day that you are most energized: For me if I don’t do it in the morning it probably won’t happen. I understand that doesn’t work for everyone so choose a time that is best for you.
- Stay hydrated and fuel your body: if you are hydrating and eating enough calories you will have more energy to do your workout everyday.
- Don’t Sweat it: If you miss a day don’t sweat it. Today has now just become your rest day. Get back at it tomorrow.
How much should a pregnant woman walk a day?
the minimum recommended by the Department of Heal th for women that are not already highly active or doing vigorous intensity aerobic activity prior to pregnancy should get at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy and postpartum. This should be ideally spread out throughout the week. This is about 22 minutes a day.
When should I start walking more during pregnancy?
Start now. There really is no perfect time to start walking, but as soon as you start incorporating regular physical activity during your pregnancy you will begin improving your health and your baby’s health.
Is walking a lot good for pregnancy?
As stated above there are many benefits that come from walking in pregnancy. Just like the saying goes, “It is possible to have too much of a good thing.” You really need to listen to your body and stop when you need to. Walking is great for your pregnancy if done in moderation. You don’t want it to lead to dehydration or injury.
Growing a human is a huge feat in itself. You are an amazing and strong woman! Prioritize yourself by regularly walking or incorporating moderate exercise so that you can feel your best. The benefits of walking during pregnancy are so worth it for you and your baby. It may be just the thing that kicks you into labor in those final weeks. Just remember you are basically running a marathon for 40 weeks and that in itself is incredible!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.