Walking During Pregnancy

Try one of the safest and simplest forms of exercise.

Best Walking Tips

If you're pregnant, doctors recommend exercising so that your body will withstand the rigors of labor and delivery more easily. Walking is a great way to feel good and become more fit.

Before you get walking, learn some easy and sensible tips to make the most of your walk:

  • Stand tall. Stand up straight and use your abdominal muscles to support your back. Practice relaxing your stomach, then pulling it back in so you get a feel for what it means to hold in your abs. If you're very pregnant, you may want to wear a maternity belt under your clothes for additional abdominal support. A maternity belt is a wide band that goes under your tummy for support. You can buy one in a maternity store or catalog.
  • Look ahead. Look at the ground a few steps ahead of you -- not straight down (which strains your neck and hunches your shoulders) or far off into the distance (in case you have to dodge people or tackle tough terrain).
  • Get into position. Keep your elbows close to your body, your shoulders back slightly, and your elbows bent. Hold your hands in light fists, as if you're grasping an egg.
  • Start off small. Begin walking in short strides. Long ones can hurt your hips and pelvic area, which are loosened by hormones released during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Workouts: Second Trimester Fitness
Pregnancy Workouts: Second Trimester Fitness

Flexibility Is Key

It's important to do some gentle stretches before and after you walk. When you're pregnant, a hormone called relaxin loosens your joints and muscles, making it easy to overstretch, so be gentle.

  • Back and arms: Clasp your hands behind your back. Keeping your back and arms straight, lift your arms up as far as you can, then lower them back down to your butt. Repeat five times.
  • Full body: Stand with your feet comfortably apart. Gently bend your knees and roll your head and torso forward so you're looking down at the floor. Slowly come back to standing. Repeat five times.
  • Shoulders and spine: Extend both arms out to your right side while looking over your left shoulder. Slowly switch to the other side. Swing back and forth, holding for about 30 seconds at a time.
  • Shoulders: Pull your shoulders forward, then up to your ears, then as far back as you can, and then down toward your feet in large circles. Go in the opposite direction. Repeat five times.

4-Day Walking Routine

This four-day plan can actually be done on any four days of the week, but it's best to space out walks so your body has time to recover. Modify walks according to your trimester as suggested below.

  • Monday: Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up. Then stretch to avoid soreness. Next, walk at a comfortable pace for about 15 minutes. Finally, walk slowly again for another five to 10 minutes to cool down.
  • Wednesday: Repeat Monday's routine, and add some slow stair climbing if you're not feeling overheated.
  • Friday: Repeat Monday's routine.
  • Saturday: Take a fun walk -- maybe with friends -- and don't press yourself to walk for a certain length of time. Do gentle stretches afterward.

Walking Tips by Trimester

Your body changes with each trimester, and you'll have to adjust your walking routine accordingly. Read our tips to learn how.

  • First Trimester Tips: You may be surprised by how strong you feel -- your blood volume doubles with pregnancy giving you extra oxygen -- but you shouldn't push yourself to get fit. Make it your goal to maintain fitness. Add an extra five minutes to the walking portion of your routine if you're really feeling good (for a total of 20 minutes walking, not counting warm-up or stretching).
  • Second Trimester Tips: As you gain weight you may have to slow your pace. You can keep the duration of your walks the same, but pare down the intensity. In other words, don't go as fast or as far.
  • Third Trimester Tips: During pregnancy's final stretch, walkers should really slow down. You should be able to stick to your four-day-a-week plan, but stop timing yourself and just walk for as long as you're comfortable. Avoid beaches, trails, and rough terrain since your center of balance has shifted and you're more prone to falls.

Additional reporting by Maggie Waide

All content here, including advice from doctors and otehr health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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