Walking During Pregnancy
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It has to be said that possibly the easiest and safest method of cardiovascular exercise which you can do throughout the whole nine months of your pregnancy is walking. Walking not only keeps you fit and healthy but it is gentle on your ankles and knees as there are no 'jarring' movements involved. Best of all, it's free! Keeping up a regular walking routine during pregnancy will help you to sleep better at night, keep your bowel movements regular, your muscles toned and you'll get lots of fresh air in the process.
The other great benefit of walking is that if you weren't really a gym junkie before falling pregnant, beginning exercise can be a bit daunting and hard work on your body. We walk every day of our lives so walking for exercise is just an extended version of this.
Getting started with walking during pregnancy
If you had a good level of activity before you fell pregnant then just keep it up. If you are only just starting to exercise, start off with slow walking and try to build up your routine to a 20-30 minute brisk walk each day 3 or 4 times a week as your stamina increases.
You mustn't overdo the walking as this is bad for you and your baby; you need to make sure that your pulse rate doesn't exceed 140bpm throughout your walk. If you cannot talk properly while walking, you are pushing yourself too hard and need to slow down. Avoid overheating as this is dangerous for your baby because they cannot regulate their temperature so you need to keep cool for them.
It is always advisable to speak to your doctor or midwife before beginning any type of exercise routine.
Walking during the first trimester
Ensure that you have a good pair of walking shoes or trainers which are supportive to the arches of your feet and ankles. During the first trimester you can stick to your usual walking routine (if you have already been doing this of course). If you are only just starting out then begin slowly and increase your efforts as your stamina increases. Make sure that you always carry a bottle of water with you to combat dehydration. Depending on the season you will need to be wary of walking conditions; if it is icy or extremely hot and humid then going for a walk in an air conditioned shopping centre or on a treadmill at home or in the gym would be better. You don't want to risk slipping over or becoming too hot.
During pregnancy your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun so if you are out walking on sunny days do not forget to wear sunscreen and possibly a hat to protect yourself.
Walking during the second trimester
As your bump continues to grow your posture will start to be affected so try to walk as tall as possible, keep your back straight (no leaning forwards or backwards), keep your chin parallel to the ground with your eyes looking to the path ahead, rotate your pelvis forward and keep your shoulders relaxed to avoid strain on your back. To get your heart pumping swing your arms with intention while you walk as this it will increase the intensity of your workout. Make sure that your shoes are still well-fitting and supportive and don't forget to keep your fluids up!
Walking during the third trimester
Walking is probably going to be the last thing on your mind as you reach your third trimester. You will no doubt be feeling the size of a house and just want to sit down and rest your weary bones. However, it is still important that you keep up with your exercise routine as you will need your stamina for labour.
Often during the third trimester, your feet and ankles will have grown in line with your expanding bump so you may need to be fitted for some new exercise shoes to ensure that you are still giving them the best support possible.
Your balance will begin to be affected now so it you need to make sure that you are walking on smooth flat surfaces. Perhaps now would be a good time to walk around the shops and start a mental shopping list of all the best places to buy the cute baby clothes you've been dreaming about.
Keep your mobile phone with you in case you need assistance quickly.
Know the risks
You should never walk or exercise to the point of breathlessness or feeling faint as your body will use up excess oxygen which should be used for your baby.
If you have any of the following symptoms during or after exercise you should call your doctor or midwife immediately: vaginal blood loss, breathing difficulties, feeling lightheaded, pains in your chest, muscle weakness, pain or swelling of the calf, early labour, drop in foetal movements, if you suspect loss of amniotic fluid, or if you feel contractions.