Whether this is your first or fifth pregnancy, staying active can help with anything from general aches and pains to easing your labor.
But if you haven’t exercised before or even if you have a regular routine when you’re not pregnant, you may not know what moves are OK to do throughout the next 9 months.
Walking is a moderate aerobic activity that doctors recommend to most pregnant folks because it’s safe, effective, and accessible.
Here’s more about walking, how much you should do, and what modifications you should take as you move through your pregnancy.
Walking is considered a safe activity during pregnancy because it works your cardiovascular system without taxing your muscles and joints.
In fact, the CDC shares that walking is a very low-risk activity. It doesn’t increase the possibility of complications — like low birth weight, preterm labor, or miscarriage — for most people.
That said, each person and each pregnancy is different. You should always speak with your doctor to see if walking (or other types of exercise) is safe for you and your baby.
Moving your body in pregnancy may not always sound appealing, especially if you’re still in the throes of morning sickness. However, keeping fit and active has numerous benefits that may help you feel better in the long run.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) shares that walking and other moderate exercise during pregnancy may lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and even delivering via cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section.
Other benefits of walking include:
- It aids with maintaining a healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy.
- It keeps muscles strong to reduce back pain.
- It helps keep your bowels moving to combat constipation.
- It maintains or improves your fitness level throughout pregnancy.
- It works your heart, lungs, and blood vessels for overall cardiovascular health.
- It helps shed baby weight when continued after birth.
A 2009 review looking at research of pregnant women and exercise reveals that walking even has the power to improve your mood and reduce your aches and pains.
Other types of moderate activity with similar benefits include:
- cycling on a stationary bike
- doing dance, yoga, or other pregnancy-specific fitness classes
Some level of abdominal or pelvic discomfort may be normal in pregnancy as your ligaments and muscles stretch to accommodate your baby’s size week by week.
If your pain increases with walking, consider easing up to see if you’re just having an off day. Monitor any other symptoms to ensure you’re not in premature labor.
You should stop exercising and call your healthcare provider if you notice:
- any bleeding from your vagina
- any fluid coming from the vagina
- dizziness or feeling faint
- shortness of breath that starts before you exercise
- chest pain
- swelling in your calves
- contractions, especially those that are regular or painful
This condition may cause pain in your pelvic area because your ligaments and muscles have stretched and loosened your joints. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for exercises that help relieve pain and restore function.
No matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in, be sure to wear supportive shoes, like athletic sneakers, for walking.
Stay hydrated by drinking water before and after exercise. The Institute of Medicine recommends drinking 2.7 liters of water per day, which works out to around 11 (8-ounce) glasses, according to a 2020 study.
If you’re worried about needing to go to the bathroom while walking, consider looping around to a spot where you can go when needed.
The key is to go short and slow and build up. The ACOG suggests starting with as few as 5 minutes of walking each day and adding 5 minutes weekly until you reach 30 minutes at a time.
Of course, if you feel fantastic and were active before pregnancy, it’s generally fine to continue doing the same workouts — even more vigorous exercise, like running — as long as your doctor has approved.
In your second trimester, you may feel more energy and motivation to exercise. Just don’t overdo it.
Walk at a brisk pace, but don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Working up a sweat can feel good, but you should be able to carry a conversation and not be too out of breath.
In your third trimester, take note of how your center of gravity has changed with your growing belly. You may need to stick to flat paths versus uneven terrain to avoid tripping and falling.
If you experience pelvic pain, consider trying a pregnancy support belt to take some of the pressure off your joints.
No matter where you are in your pregnancy, certain conditions or complications may cause your doctor to suggest taking a step back from exercise.
Each case is different, so contact your healthcare provider for guidance if you have any of the following:
As your pregnancy symptoms wax and wane, you may find that some days you don’t feel as motivated to get out and walk. Or maybe you’re too sick or haven’t slept well the night before.
On days when you’re feeling tired or drained, try doing a shorter walk or other type of gentle exercise, like yoga. You can even take a day off.
If you’re continually feeling drained, get in touch with your doctor to see if something else, like anemia, may be impacting your energy levels.
Related: Iron-rich foods for your pregnancy
Walking is a safe exercise for most people during pregnancy. If you’re just starting a workout routine, talk with your doctor to get any guidelines you should follow specific to your health and your baby’s health.
Otherwise, contact your doctor ASAP if you experience any signs of preterm labor — like regular painful contractions or fluid or blood from the vagina — or other potential issues like chest pain, swelling, or headaches.
No matter what, don’t skip your scheduled prenatal appointments.
These appointments help your doctor keep an eye on your health and your baby’s health. Plus, they’re an excellent opportunity to raise questions and concerns face-to-face with your doctor.
Another great thing about walking is that most anyone can do it — today. All you need is a supportive pair of shoes and a safe path to follow.
Pack a water bottle to ensure you’ll have easy access to water. Otherwise, have fun and keep at it.
Before you know it, you’ll be walking the same route with your sweet baby in tow!