The Fitness Doc, Third Trimester Fitness: Walking
I AM A RUNNER. I love running. I’ve been running as long as I can remember. Growing up, it was a family tradition to travel to a lake near our house and exercise on Saturday mornings. Daddy is a walker, mama would run or walk, and us children would run, or ride bikes. I continued this habit into running long distance track and cross country in high school, and running recreationally throughout college and my doctoral program. Given my life-long history with running, I only started racing in 2012! My first race being the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon.
That being stated, in early January, when I was advised as a precaution to limit my running due of the possibility of overdoing it, thus contributing to stress and high blood pressure during pregnancy, I was devastated! I had just completed running 100 miles in December and I was feeling great!
Not only could I not participate in my favorite sport, but I’d already registered for a few Spring races 😕. My initial thought was to limit the duration or how often I ran. After some introspection and weighing what I want to do vs. what would be best for me during pregnancy, especially given my desire to have an HBA2C (home birth after two cesareans), I realized that if I would continued running I would inevitably push myself and “overdo" it, so I decided to put running on pause altogether.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be inactive during pregnancy, I decided to do the next best thing -- walk! While walking doesn’t give me that “runner’s high”, because you know, it’s NOT running, walking is an excellent form of exercise for pregnant women! Here are my top 5 benefits of walking while pregnant:
It’s simple, equipment free, and doesn’t require any extra planning. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, and you’re good to go! I got creative with ways to incorporate walking into daily lives. I would find myself walking laps around the playground while our daughters played.
It’s a great cardiovascular exercise that keeps you fit without putting too much stress on your joints. It can help you to maintain an ideal weight and ward off gestational diabetes. In my case it was a preventative measure to regulate my blood pressure and avoid pre-eclempsia.
It’s generally safe to continue throughout the 10 months of pregnancy, even as you slow down, decrease duration, and/or regularity. I had to get used to my ever decreasing walking pace and give up my need for speed! Non-pregnant, I average about a 9:30 minute conversational pace mile run, while 8 months pregnant, it me took 20 minutes to walk one mile!
It’s a good exercise for all activity levels, even if you weren’t active prior to or in early pregnancy. While it is not advisable to start a new exercise regimen during pregnancy, moderately walking for approximately 30 minutes several times weekly is highly recommended during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester.
It’s great preparation for labor! Walking during pregnancy increases your flexibility and tones hip and thigh muscles, putting you in a good position to not only withstand the duration of labor, but potentially making it easier and faster too! Check back with me later on this one ;) It is recommended to walk DURING the early stages of labor to move through contractions, and to help guide the baby into ideal positioning for delivery.
So there you have it! Early, middle, and late pregnancy, get out and WALK!