Being pregnant can bring with it many questions and concerns. What foods should I eat? What foods should I avoid? How much should I eat? Can I exercise? Although the answers to these questions may not be cut and dried, the question of whether walking is healthy during pregnancy is as clear as the two lines on your pregnancy test.
The benefits of walking during pregnancy are numerous. Essentially, they are the same as for non-pregnant people. Exercise is known to improve blood pressure, reduce disease risk and even improve your psychological well being. While you are pregnant, these things are even more important. Preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension) and gestational diabetes can be prevented or reduced with exercise. Walking is one of the safest exercises that most all pregnant women can do.
Some old wives’ tales advise that no exercise or unnecessary work (stress) is good for the baby. Other newer wisdom advocates that any exercise you did before being pregnant you can do during pregnancy as long as it does not involve physical contact and a high potential for falls (think football or water skiing). Walking presents a happy medium. It is low impact, does not require any special skills and can be done virtually anywhere.
The amount of walking you do while pregnant should be considered carefully. If you are not a regular walker, start slow and build up gradually over time. A pedometer can be an excellent tool to track your steps and progress over time. It is a small device you wear on your pants that counts how many steps you take, calories burned and miles walked. Pedometers are not perfect, but they can show what your starting point is and keep you motivated!
Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and an expert for Babyzone.com. He advises, “You need to decide—along with your doctor—what’s right for you. . . . Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly usually have a better delivery outcome (lower C-section rates, etc.).” Provided you are not specifically barred from walking, it is generally a wonderful form of exercise.
If you have been put on bed rest or restricted work, you should discuss with your physician whether walking is safe for you. Most likely it will be, but you should get a medical clearance to be safe. Your doctor can also prescribe a specific amount of walking that will be healthy for you during pregnancy. Bring along a buddy to be safe. Good luck and happy trails!