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As someone who has just entered the 3rd trimester of her first pregnancy, I’m getting a first-hand crash course into what it’s like to be pregnant. I’m a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor who has trained pregnant clients in the past so I’ve been aware of modifications, but I didn’t really grasp the entire magnitude of being pregnant until I became pregnant. Pregnancy looks different for everyone. Some women are able to continue working out their entire pregnancy, while some are instructed to be on bed rest.
There are also those somewhere in the middle, like me. I’ve been relatively active throughout my pregnancy, but nowhere near as active as I was beforehand. Some days I’m only able to walk and that’s ok – I’m not just saying this to you, I’m saying this to myself. I think we can be too hard on ourselves sometimes, especially as women and mothers. At the end of the day, we’re growing a human life(s) and it’s hard work, not to mention taxing on the body!
That said, walking during your pregnancy has a lot of benefits. Walking is a highly underrated form of exercise, in general. Many people think – and I was one of them in the past – that you have to get your heart rate to its max and sweat a ton for your workout to “count”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Engaging in a decent walking pace is a great way to stay active, especially while pregnant.
Now, of course, check with your doctor before engaging in and starting a fitness routine while pregnant. I’m not a medical professional, and you and your doctor know what is best for you and your baby. If you’ve been given the green light to stay active during your pregnancy though, you’ll want to keep reading to learn all of the benefits of walking during pregnancy, from a fellow mom-to-be.
Walking is safe
Walking is a lower-impact exercise that most people can do. It’s an activity that most people do every day that has less risk of injury than other forms of exercise like running, cycling, and strength training.
I’m personally not able to do some exercises as well as some daily activities that I had no problem doing before getting pregnant, but I can walk. As our bumps grow, our center of gravity shifts which can throw off our balance. So, you might find you’re a little less steady on your feet as you advance through pregnancy. Walking is an easy form of movement and something that you can vary your intensity and pace with easily, so it’s great to do during pregnancy.
Walking is something you can do pretty much anywhere and at any time. You can also walk on a treadmill in your home. Hey, we’re busy growing humans and you might have other kiddos you’re taking care of while pregnant, so walking can be a great way to sneak in some physical activity for you and the whole family.
Helps reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications
Walking, whether you’re pregnant or not, has many health benefits. During pregnancy though, it can specifically help to decrease your risk for pregnancy-related conditions like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Walking can also help encourage a healthy birth weight for your baby as well as healthy weight gain for you during pregnancy. Walking helps reduce the risk of other complications during birth, too.
Helps maintain and improve your overall fitness
Walking is an excellent way to help you stay in shape while pregnant. It has similar benefits to running without being as taxing on the body. The CDC recommends getting in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week (whether you’re pregnant or not), and walking is a great way to do this.
It’s an excellent way to strengthen your cardiovascular system. Walking is a form of cardio exercise that increases your heart rate to work your heart and lungs for a stronger cardiovascular system.
Can help ease pain and discomfort during pregnancy
When I’m feeling terrible, which I have been during different stages of my pregnancy so far, walking usually helps. Even when I was nauseous during all of the first trimester, a walk would help ease that a little. Now that I’m entering my third trimester, I’m finding that walking is helping with round ligament pain and the general uncomfortable feeling of being pregnant. My lower back pain subsides when I incorporate regular walking into my daily routine. Walking helps strengthen the muscles, which helps my back better support my growing bump.
Swelling is also a common symptom of pregnancy. With hormone changes, increased blood volume, and water retention, our legs are more prone to swelling. I notice my swelling is much better when I get in more steps throughout the day.
Helps to boost your mood and lessen stress
There aren’t only physical benefits of walking during pregnancy, but mental ones. Pregnancy is stressful, at least it has been for me. I’ve always used exercise in the past to help relieve stress and as a natural mood booster and I’m continuing to do so while pregnant. I have found my overall mood and stress levels, which include a lot of anxiety about my upcoming birth, improve after I take time out of my day to go for a walk. Even just 20 to 30 minutes is all I need. I know it can feel impossible to carve out a little time for ourselves during the day, even when not pregnant, but doing so by including an activity like walking can make us feel so much better, physically and mentally.
Can help with digestion and sleep
Walking can also help with your sleep and digestion during pregnancy. Regular movement, like walking, can help get things moving downstairs. Constipation is very common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes and the shifting of our organs to make room for our growing baby. My diet has drastically changed since becoming pregnant, especially during the first trimester. I’m not eating as healthily as I was before overall and some days I don’t get enough fiber, so walking has helped with this.
Insomnia and sleep problems are common during pregnancy too, especially during the third trimester. Walking can help promote relaxation and better sleep throughout pregnancy.
So, as long as you have clearance from your doctor, I encourage you to add in some walking when you can. I know you’re tired and working hard growing a baby, but know I’m right there with you, and adding a walk to your day can make a big difference.
And if you want to walk in your home on a treadmill, we have you covered with our list of the best treadmills for walking.
Wishing you all the best during your pregnancy!