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Walking While Pregnant

Walking is considered one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women because it is not jarring on the joints. It is also safe to continue through the whole pregnancy (unless told to stop for medical reasons) and it is an easy way to start exercising if the pregnant woman had not been previously active. Some tips for walking during each of the trimesters can be found at http://www.babycenter.com/0_great-pregnancy-exercise-walking_7863.bc#articlesection1

As with all exercise, the walker should make sure that she is fully hydrated; even if she is not sweating due to a reduced activity level. Her urine should be clear (unless colored by excessive vitamins and supplements). Drinking while exercising will help the blood and fluid to continue to flow throughout the body, and not pool in the extremities. I usually also drink some Gatorade or other replenishment drink when I return from a walk to replace any electrolytes lost during exercise.

It is also advised to do short warm up and cool down sessions lasting between 5-15 minutes to prevent muscle soreness and stiffness. This can consist of walking in place and lightly swinging the arms. Id. at 117. I personally do not ever feel the need to do this as I feel my stretching adequately warms up my muscles, and compared to my racing days, I am not exerting myself too much.

I personally stretch my hips, calves, hamstrings, back and shoulders both before and after a walk. However, some doctors caution about overstretching. During pregnancy, the body produces the hormone relaxin which softens the connective tissue around joints; therefore, overstretching can cause injury. See Stone & Eddleman, at 116. Always make sure you get blood flowing to the muscles before stretching. Stretching cold muscles is counterproductive and can lead to injuries.

In addition, the pregnant woman should make sure that she is eating every few hours and not letting blood sugar levels fall. See Clapp & Cram, at 125-26. Because she is exercising, she might need to eat more than a sedentary pregnant woman because she has to meet the energy requirements of the physical activity. Therefore, if she finds herself more hungry than she did before she started her exercise routine, she should increase her food intake. See Butler, at 39.

As far as the form during walking, the walker should aim to do the following:

  • Posture should be straight up and down
  • Arms should be bent at between 85-90 degrees
  • Never use hand or ankle weights, this can lead to injury
  • Keep the head up, chin parallel with the ground, and look 20-30 feet down the road
  • Keep the shoulders relaxed and lowered
  • Focus on your hip and shoulder alignmentment, keeping them the hips under the shoulders

Expanding on the previous tips, tucking in the pelvis rather than hollowing out the back will alleviate or prevent back pain and fatigue. Weiss, LCCE, Robin Elise, Fitness Walking Precautions, found at http://www.netplaces.com/pregnancy-fitness/walking/fitness-walking-precautions.htm

In addition, one should invest in a pair of shoes that are just used for walking. You should remember that pregnant women’s feet often widen during pregnancy, and therefore the size might be different than the pre-pregnancy one. Id.

Even in cold weather, the pregnant woman should dress in layers, and remove them as you walk. The clothing should be loose and not constricting. Id.  

In addition, do not compare your performance level with the pre-pregnancy. The goal during pregnancy is to maintain a level of fitness, not improve upon it. Fox, Isadora, The Benefits of Walking for Pregnant and New Moms, found at http://www.parents.com/baby/health/lose-baby-weight/benefits-walking-pregnant-new-moms/

The bigger belly changes the center of gravity, and therefore, it might take some time to get use to walking with extra weight around the middle. Id.

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