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Exercising in Pregnancy: Walking

Katlyn Joy |22, August 2013


Pregnancy is no time to eat bon-bons and exercise your option to be lazy. Physical activity is an important part of taking care of yourself and your baby. If you have been a less than stellar example of fitness prior to pregnancy, that's no excuse for continuing your sedentary ways.

Exercise in pregnancy can help prevent some of the unwanted side effects of pregnancy, or at least help keep them in check. For instance, exercise can help with pregnancy back pain, help you fight insomnia which frequently plagues expectant mothers, keeps you from gaining excess weight, and can help you avoid more troublesome pregnancy concerns such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or postpartum depression. Plus the energy boost of exercise can help you with your moods and will give you stamina for the arduous task of childbirth and the even more difficult one of motherhood.

Walking is usually the most recommended form of exercise for expectant moms since you can start at any fitness level, don't need a gym membership, special equipment and you can do it wherever you live. Plus, you can continue your walking routine after baby arrives.

A Few Caveats

Always consult your physician before beginning any workout regime, even one as simple as walking. There are some women who need special clearance to work out, such as those expecting twins or more, women who have chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or other illnesses, and women experiencing unexplained bleeding.

If you are at risk or have a history of preterm labor, your doctor may have specific advice on exercise including walking so heed whatever warnings apply to you. Know what the danger signs are in pregnancy and exercise

Remember your pregnant body will respond differently to exercise than your former self. For example, you are prone to overheating and will sweat more than usual so hydrate yourself religiously. Since your heart has to work harder, expect quicker fatigue. Your growing uterus will push up into your lungs and make them feel squeezed and you'll get out of breath much more easily as the pregnancy progresses. You will be off balance with your center of gravity so changed so be careful to avoid falls. Also, your hormones in pregnancy will loosen and soften your joints and ligaments so be wary of overextending and getting a sprain or other injury.

Signs You Need to Stop

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath that seems uncharacteristic for you or for the activity level
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Drop off in baby's movements
  • Leaking or gushing any fluid from your vagina
  • Cramping or uterine contractions that persist even after resting
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Any signs of preterm labor, as described by your physician

4 Steps to Begin a Walking Routine

1. Know your fitness level and begin slowly from that point. If you were never active before getting pregnant, or at least not in a long time, you need to very slowly start your new workout routine. Your goal will be consistency, not a big fitness goal. Walk at a mild pace for ten minutes or so every other day for the first few weeks. Gradually add a day until you feel comfortable walking each day, or most days. If you were moderately active, you can walk for 20 minutes a few times a week to start then build up the times per week and the times per walk. If you were a real workout queen, then go for a daily walk, but don't expect to do what you were pre-pregnancy.

2. Always stay hydrated. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink water or a fitness drink. Keeping hydrated is something you have to concern yourself with while pregnant even when you aren't exercising. Be careful about getting overheated or working out when the temperature is too high. If it's a blistering day, opt for a few go rounds at the mall in the air conditioning or at the local rec center.

3. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes. If your feet have never swelled before in your life, don't be surprised if they do now. Accommodate your feet by not tying your shoes too tightly and make sure you wear thick enough socks to prevent blisters from forming. Make sure your shoes fit you well and provide enough support especially in the arches. Consider an insert to make them even more comfy.

4. Expect to need to modify your workout at times. Some days you'll need to take it easy on yourself. You will just feel worn down, crampy or maybe nauseated. Later in pregnancy, your wind won't be what it was, and you'll feel like you need a crane to get you up at times. You will likely need to scale back at the end of the pregnancy. Listen to your body always and if you are concerned, talk to your health provider to get assurance all is well. Don't berate yourself for being a baby at times; you aren't a baby you are growing one. It's a tough job for your body so make necessary allowances.

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