Pregnancy causes many changes in the female body, including weight gain and hormone shifts that can affect energy, mood and appetite. But here’s some good news: Walking can help.
“Walking is an excellent way to maintain healthy circulation and build stamina and strength while the baby grows and mama has more weight to support,” explains April Mellito, a licensed midwife in Bozeman, Mt.
Even if a woman has previously been sedentary, it is now recommended that she begin an exercise program if she has a healthy pregnancy. The key is to start conservatively and progress according to how she feels. Walking is ideal for helping both mom and baby reap the benefits of physical activity. Every pregnant woman should, of course, check with her medical practitioner about how much physical activity is appropriate for her individual situation.
Natural Resistance Training
Weight gain is a natural part of pregnancy. As a woman’s body gets heavier, the muscles strengthen to carry the extra weight. This causes her muscles to strengthen naturally, without lifting weights. However, the leg muscles only get stronger in relation to how much physical activity she is doing.
Walking also helps keep a woman’s joints flexible through their entire range of motion. Everybody knows that joints and muscles get stiff when they’re not moving. Walking prevents this problem and the associated discomforts because moving the legs keeps the hip joints loose.
Flexible and strong hips are especially helpful when a woman gives birth, says Mellito.
Worried About Weight Gain?
Gaining 25-35 pounds is normal and healthy during pregnancy, but a woman can easily gain more than that. Getting out for a walk every day or every other day helps keep a woman’s metabolism (efficiency of burning calories) regulated and weight under control. Low-intensity walking might not increase metabolism, but it burns calories. A woman can increase her metabolism by intensifying her walk by adding hills or distance. She can also stop and do 20 squats every five to 10 minutes for a similar effect, if the additional exercise is well tolerated.
Cultivate a Peaceful Mind
There’s a lot to think about when pregnant, with feelings of anticipation, worry, excitement and expectation at an all-time high. The endorphins generated from exercise can help a pregnant woman reduce her stress and maintain a positive state of mind; walking outdoors has been shown to be particularly beneficial in this respect.
Create Positive Post-pregnancy Habits
Having a routine of walking in place before the baby arrives makes it more likely that a woman will make exercise a postpartum habit, too. Walking is an effective and gentle way to get back in shape after giving birth.