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What's the one workout that suits pregnant women of all stripes? "Walking," chorused the group I interviewed for my book, Walking Through Pregnancy and Beyond (The Lyons Press, 2004). For everyone--from the Texas triathlete and coach who needed to scale back, to a Colorado woman who simply pledged to walk the short distance to work--walking was both as gentle and as challenging as they needed it to be.
"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 and maintain a sense of control without the high impact of other activities they've participated in."
Our three-tiered program makes establishing a routine simple. Regardless of your fitness level, keep in mind that it's not only fine, it's also wise to swap days or shorten workouts according to how you feel. And whenever you're increasing your walking time, be sure to do it gradually, adding a few minutes every other day or every few days. Already in your second or third trimester? Jump in at the relevant level, unless you've been inactive; if so, start with the trimester 1 plan for beginners.
Remember to get your doctor's approval before starting this or any prenatal exercise plan. Slip on your favorite walking shoes, start with our simple warm-up and get ready to walk your way to a healthy pregnancy.
Before each walk, take 2 minutes to warm up with these moves:
ANKLE CIRCLES Stand on one foot, holding a wall or rail for balance. Flex your ankle and slowly draw big circles with your toes, completing 6-8 circles in each direction. Switch feet and repeat.
LEG SWINGS Stand on one foot, holding a wall or rail for balance. Swing your free leg forward and back from your hip in a relaxed motion. Repeat 10-20 times; switch legs and repeat.
ARM CIRCLES Stand while holding arms straight out to the sides. Circle arms backward 10 times; repeat in opposite direction.
COOL-DOWN When you finish your walk, take 5 minutes to stretch your back, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, thighs and calves. You can do this while standing--essential as your pregnancy progresses.