Walking is the one workout that suits pregnant women of all different fitness levels. It’s as gentle or as challenging as you need it to be. It requires no investment (all you really need is a good pair of shoes and a water bottle). Plus, you can do it nearly anywhere, anytime. Excuses like “I hate the gym” or “I’ve never exercised before” just won’t fly.
“I recommend walking to most of my patients who are pregnant,” says Tanya Ghatan, M.D., an OB-GYN at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It’s easy entry for women who’ve never exercised and gives athletic women a way to stay active without the high impact of other activities they’ve participated in.” This program is designed to be started in the first trimester. However, you can jump in at the appropriate level no matter how pregnant you are. (If you were inactive before your pregnancy, however, start at the first trimester program for beginners.)
Regardless of your fitness level, keep in mind that it’s not only fine but smart to swap days, shorten your walks or even skip them occasionally according to how you feel. It’s also perfectly OK to break up a day’s total walking time into two or more shorter sessions.
Get your doctor’s approval before starting this (or any other) exercise program, and remember to warm up first by doing arm and ankle circles and leg swings for a couple of minutes (also take five minutes to stretch after each walk). Now, get out there and just start putting one foot in front of the other.
Keep it safe
Take the talk: During the hardest part of your workout, you should be able to converse without gasping for breath, though not with complete ease, either.
Use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale: On a scale of 1-10, most of your walks should fall between a 3 (slow walk) and a 7 (fast enough that you couldn’t keep it up for more than 30-40 minutes).
Watch for danger signs: Stop if you experience pain, bleeding, dizziness, faintness, sudden swelling, lack of normal fetal movement, an abnormally rapid heartbeat or extreme fatigue.
What’s your fitness level?
Beginner: You’ve never exercised or you do so only rarely.
Intermediate: You’re active, but exercise may be sporadic.
Advanced: You’re fit and exercise four or more times per week.