Pregnancy Walking Routine

  • Ayesha Bibi Doctor of Pharmacy - Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan

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Physical activity is essential for the health of both the mother and the child. Certain exercises take effort and this effort multiplies when you have a little one growing inside of you. However, regular walking is part of your daily tasks and makes your heart and lungs healthy. Moreover, in pregnancy, it can also reduce the complications associated with delivery. So, have you ever wondered if walking during pregnancy is safe? If yes, then how much walking is too much when you are pregnant?

Read on to learn the many health benefits of walking during pregnancy and the walking routine in each trimester of your pregnancy. 

Introduction

Adopting a regular walking routine during pregnancy strengthens the health and welfare of both you and your baby. Pregnancy and postnatal (postpartum) stages are considered teachable moments during the life of a woman. In these stages, women are determined to adopt certain practices (such as regular walking) that improve the well-being of their children and themselves.

Walking during pregnancy has many health benefits and it is also absolutely free! Brisk walking, for example, helps in keeping your lungs and heart in a healthy condition during your pregnancy.1 

Walking should be incorporated into daily activities such as socialising with friends, talking on the phone, doing routine chores, and going to or from work.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a pregnant woman should complete a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity (brisk walking for instance) within a week during pregnancy. However, while you’re walking, keep in mind that you do not walk so much that you become breathless, make sure you’re wearing the right shoes, and steer clear of uneven surfaces.2 

What are the benefits of a pregnancy walking routine?

Reduced diseases

Walking during pregnancy lowers the risk of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. A research shows that the risk of gestational diabetes decreased by up to 20% and the risk of preeclampsia was reduced by up to 33% in women who adopted a walking routine during pregnancy. Regular walking also reduces the risk of weight gain and foetal macrosomia.3

Reduced back pain

Walking can also help in reducing the pelvic discomfort and back pain during pregnancy.4

Improved mental health

Walking outside in fresh air is known to reduce the symptoms associated with depression. This happens due to the release of feel-good hormones that help soothe your feelings of stress or anxiety.4 

Boosted fitness

A regular walking routine during pregnancy strengthens your heart, blood vessels, and lungs. Walking makes you physically feel and also boosts your stamina. It improves the quality of your sleep and you wake up feeling fresh. Regular walking during pregnancy also prepares your body for labour and reduces the risk of having a c-section.5

Speedy postpartum recovery

Walking, as a routine during pregnancy, toughens up your body and this not only eases the delivery process but also quickens the post-birth recovery.

What is a safe walking routine during pregnancy?

Although the walking routine is divided according to each trimester, you can start the following routine at any point during pregnancy. However, make sure to consult with your healthcare provider before you start this walking routine.6

First trimester (0 to 13 weeks)

Pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks and comprises of three trimesters. The first trimester continues for 13 weeks and the walking routine during the first trimester can be done at any time through the course of your pregnancy. 

If you are at a beginner level, meaning you do not exercise or you exercise once in a while, then the routine includes:

  • Start the walking routine by taking 10 to 15 minutes a day, and a total of three days a week.
  • You should have a gap of one day after each day of walking.
  • When you feel like you’re ready for it, increase the time of walking by 5 minutes and add on an additional day.
  • Keep following this routine and after a handful of weeks, add another day of walking (now five days a week of walking).
  • This routine of 10 to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week should be continued until the end of the first trimester.

Now if you are at an intermediate level, are active and exercise infrequently, then the walking routine includes:

  • Walking for 20 to 40 minutes a day and a total of six days a week
  • This should be done in small steps and not all at once

However, if you exercise regularly then the routine comprises of walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day and a total of six days a week. This should be achieved by taking small steps as well.7

Second trimester (13 to 25 weeks)

At a beginner level, start the routine as:

  • Walking for 10 minutes a day and for four or five days a week.
  • This is then modified gradually where one more day is included and the timing of walking is also increased until the routine becomes 15 to 30 minutes a day and for four to six days in a week.

If you exercise rarely (intermediate level):

  • Kick off your walking routine with 20 minutes a day and four to six days a week.
  • Keep adding minutes and days until the routine becomes 25 to 40 minutes a day and five to six days a week.

In case you are at an advanced level (you exercise regularly):

  • Incorporate certain practices in your routine such as pumping your arms forcefully to increase your heart rate.
  • During this routine, start with 30 to 40 minutes a day and six days a week, ending at 40 to 50 minutes a day and a total of five to six days a week. 

Third trimester (26 to 40 weeks)

As you get closer to the due date, don’t hesitate to slow down when you feel it is necessary. This trimester demands you to stay comfortable and active. In beginner level:

  • Set up a routine of 10 minutes a day and four to six days a week.
  • In case you feel tired, shorten your walks 
  • Try setting up 15 to 30 minutes a day and five to six days a week

At an intermediate level:

  • Kick off your walking routine with 10 to 20 minutes a day for four to six days a week
  • The duration and frequency of your walks may decrease which is completely fine as you near your due date.
  • You may feel easy with splitting your longer walks into smaller ones.

At an advanced level:

  • Set your routine in motion by starting with 20 to 50 minutes a day for a total of four to six days a week.
  • Slow done your speed when you feel like you’re getting exhausted.
  • End the routine with 25 to 50 minutes a day and a total of five to six days a week.

FAQs

When to see your doctor?

Always consult with your healthcare provider before adopting any of the pregnancy walking routines. Certain activities are strongly advised to be avoided during pregnancy, such as horseback riding, skiing, skydiving, sit-ups, and many others. Therefore, it is highly advisable to visit your healthcare provider to get instructions regarding prohibited activities as well as recommended exercises. 

How do I adopt a pregnancy walking routine?

Adopting a pregnancy walking routine is a gradual process. It requires patience and consistency, and is not achieved all at once. For instance, the walking routine during the first trimester includes starting the walk with 10 to 15 minutes, gradually adding on 5 minutes and one day, then continuing the routine with 10 to 20 minutes a day and a total of five days a week until the end of the first trimester.

Is it safe to walk regularly during the third trimester?

Yes, it is safe to have a walking routine during the third trimester of your pregnancy. Moreover, there is a proper walking routine specifically designed for the third trimester. You can find this routine in the above article.

What precautions should I take while walking during pregnancy?

During your pregnancy walking routine, keep in mind that you should not walk so much that you become breathless, make sure you’re wearing the right shoes, and steer clear of uneven surfaces. Do not overdo it and take breaks in between whenever you feel like it.

Is physical activity considered safe for all women during pregnancy?

No, physical activity is considered risky for some women and therefore, it is advisable to reach out to your healthcare provider regarding whether a certain physical activity is safe for you or not. For instance, if a pregnant woman already has pregnancy-induced hypertension (also called preeclampsia), then your provider will decide whether you should perform physical activity or not. Another such case is multiple pregnancy (being pregnant with twins, triplets, or more).

What kinds of activities are dangerous during pregnancy?

Activities that include bumpy movements should be avoided, such as horseback riding, and gymnastics. Other activities to avoid during pregnancy include skating, soccer, basketball, skydiving (carries a risk of decompression sickness), skiing, surfing etc. Also avoid staying in a supine position (to lie flat on your back) after the first trimester as your uterus presses onto the blood vessels carrying blood towards your heart, resulting in you feeling faint. Consult with your healthcare provider before performing any kind of such activity.

What are some tips for exercise during pregnancy?

Warm up before you start exercising. Stay active on a routine basis and walk regularly even if it is not for the usual period of time. Showing up every day is what matters and something is always better than nothing. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking fluids in an abundant amount.

Summary

Walking is a part of our daily activities and therefore it is the easiest as well as highly beneficial form of physical activity that can be carried out during pregnancy. A regular walking routine promotes the health and well-being of both the mother and the child. It has several benefits including improved physical and mental health, reduced pregnancy complications, decreased risk of c-section, uncomplicated labour, and many others. It involves regular moderately-paced walks tailored to each of the trimesters of the pregnancy.

References

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ayesha Bibi

Doctor of Pharmacy - Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan

Ayesha is an undergraduate pharmacy student with strong management and leadership acumen having experience of industrial and hospital pharmacy through internship programs. She has presented at an international conference as a student speaker and also volunteered at a fundraising community.

She is a member of an online international society on telemedicine and aims to contribute to collaborative healthcare as a dedicated pharmacist after graduation.

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