Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
The same benefits of walking apply when you are pregnant as at any other period of your life. If you have been walking before becoming pregnant you can continue as before but choose where you walk and when you walk carefully. Discuss your walking programme with your doctor or health care advisor beforehand.
Walking is one of the simplest and easiest exercises during pregnancy. It strengthens your muscles and improves endurance and breathing. All of these benefits will be a help to withstand the demands of labour and delivery later on. Walking also helps to elevate your mood which, because of hormonal changes, is prone to highs and lows during pregnancy.
Benefits of walking during pregnancy
• It boosts your energy levels
• Improves your posture
• Relieves backache
• Strengthens and tones muscles
• Reduces constipation
• Activates the lubricating fluid in your joints
• Improves your skin
• Prepares your body for birth
• Eases labour and delivery
• Helps you gain less weight during pregnancy
• Improves your quality of sleep
• Raises your mood
It is important to maintain good posture when walking. Hold your head up, your shoulders back, elbows close to your body and your back straight. Look straight ahead into the distance and pull in your abdomen. Keeping a good posture will prevent neck and back strain.Do some gentle stretches before and after your walk to avoid stiffness or soreness.
A simple stretching exercise is to stand about a yard away from a wall with your legs slightly apart. Place your two hands on the wall above your head. Move the left leg forward towards the wall and bend the knee. As you bend keep the right leg straight and push towards the wall. You will feel the stretch on the muscles of your right leg. Repeat this with your left leg and continue the exercise stretching each leg alternately while counting up to twenty. Always start off your walk at a slow pace. Five minutes slowly at the beginning and the end of your walk will help you warm up and cool down.
Walk for a total of 15mins three times weekly to begin with. Try to increase the distance gradually until you are walking at least 30 minutes daily. Walk at a brisk pace but keep your heart rate at or below 140 beats per minute. If you carry on a conversation without becoming short of breath your pace is correct.
During the second and third trimester walk for as long as you are comfortable. A maternity belt may help you support the increased abdominal weight in the last trimester. Listen to your own body. If you feel unduly tired after your walk reduce the distance next time.
Avoid walking on rough ground or beaches as your centre of balance has shifted and you want to avoid the risk of falling. Avoid walking during the hottest part of the day as increased body temperature is not good for the baby. The normal precautions also apply during pregnancy. You should stop walking if you experience dizziness, palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath or pain in your back or pelvis.