Walking in pregnancy benefits your health and well being and that of you babies in so many ways. It really is the superfood of fitness during pregnancy! Not quite as sexy or trendy as some exercise classes but not only is walking a safe, comfortable activity to do during pregnancy, it's also convenient as it's easy to fit into a busy day.
Moving your body daily and being active is the foundation to living a healthy life whether you are pregnant or not. It is more beneficial to your general health, well being and muscle function to be regularly moving as opposed to what is called 'sedentary active' where you are mostly sitting in the day, then spending 1 hour or 2 a week in the gym or at an exercise class.
To inspire you to get moving, read on to discover how the simple movement of walking brings you many benefits to you and your babies health during pregnancy.
The 7 benefits of walking during pregnancy
1. Enhances your fitness levels in preparation for birth
Walking is an excellent aerobic activity to do whilst pregnancy as it improves your fitness endurance to help with all the endurance required to give birth and the pushing and panting! Not only that it keeps your heart healthy and strong to reduce the risk of heart disease.
2. Boosts your chance of an easier, faster labour
Walking increases flexibility and strength in your hip muscles, which may help you have a faster, easier and pain-free labour.
3. Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes
By keeping your body weight in check and blood sugar levels lower, walking helps reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
4. Lowers stress and anxiety
Hormones and stress levels may all increase during pregnancy and if a women suffers severe stress during pregnancy it may increase the chances of the baby being born prematurely or underweight. Walking outdoors releases endorphins, the 'happy' hormones that help lift our mood and promote feelings of calmness.
5. Helps you and your baby maintain a healthy body weight
Being active by walking helps burn calories and keeps your weight stable. Research has shown that it also helps keep the babies weight lower too. Women who exercise moderately during pregnancy give birth to smaller babies, whilst the babies weight was still healthy. This may reduce the risk of obesity later in their infant life.
6. Reduces pregnancy aches and discomfort
Pregnancy means you are more prone to certain pains and discomforts due to the physical and postural changes that are occurring and being inactive may make these worse. Using your leg muscles during the motion of walking will help relieve aches, pains and discomfort as well as improving your circulation to help reduce cramps. As walking is low impact there is less stress to your joints, which are more susceptible during pregnancy due to body producing more of the hormone relaxin, which makes the joints more lax.
7. Improves your sleep
Exercising regularly helps improve sound, quality sleep. Walking outdoors, taking in your environment and absorbing what is going on keeps the brain 'oxygenated' and being outdoors in daylight has a great effect on our internal body clock and the timing of when your body wants to sleep. The more daylight you have the better your body is at suppressing daytime sleepiness which in turn increases your sleepiness at bedtime.
Regular walking in pregnancy benefits include easing morning sickness, boosting energy, relieving constipation, reducing the risk of varicose veins and by improving circulation the exercise helps aid your digestion too.
How to start and some considerations
If you're new to walking, start with 10 to 15 minutes of walking five to six days of the week for 2-3weeks. Then progress to 20 to 30 minutes for 6-7 days of the week. If you have walked regularly before becoming pregnant, continue with 30 minutes of walking most days of the week! To make this manageable you can break it up to 2 x 15 minute walks a day. You can continue to walk until your third trimester and even after birth as long as you feel comfortable.
When walking uphill, reduce your pace and walk with good posture; shoulders back, chin lifted and try to draw your navel (belly button) in towards your spine to support your back. You can also use walking poles to help stabilise you.
Be sure to wear good quality walking shoes or trainers when walking. Take plenty of water to keep dehydrated and keep in the shade and cool if it is very warm. Wear light, breathable fabrics and a good supportive bra to protect your breasts which are growing during pregnancy.
After your walk, it’s a good idea to stretch the muscles of your hamstrings (backs of the thighs, glutes (the bottom) and calves (backs of the lower legs). This will ease any muscle soreness and help prevent cramps.