Are you wondering when you should start walking during pregnancy?
After reading this article, you will get a good idea of how much walking you should do while pregnant, when to do it, and what to look out for.
Specifically, you’ll learn
- How long you should walk for in each trimester,
- The benefits (and risks) of walking, and
- Walking workouts you can incorporate into your daily life
Let’s dive right in.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
When to start walking during pregnancy
You should start walking as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. There is no need to wait to get clearance from your doctor.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, whether you are pregnant or not.
The best part?
You can easily scale up or scale down the amount of walking you do on a daily basis based on your current abilities.
Now let’s talk about why you should be walking often.
Why is it important to walk during pregnancy?
The next question you may ask is: Is walking good during pregnancy?
Yes! It is very important that you walk throughout your pregnancy for several reasons.
The number one reason is to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Pregnancy is a hypercoagulable state. This means that your body is more prone to blood clot formation when you are pregnant.
This is due to
- High levels of estrogen,
- Decreased levels of anti-thrombotic (clotting) factors, and
- Decreased physical activity
You can’t help the first two points.
But you can definitely do something about the third one!
Other major benefits of walking in pregnancy
As you progress in your pregnancy, the growing uterus will begin to compress some of the blood vessels in the pelvic area. This creates a condition known as venous stasis. Walking can help circulate blood from your lower body back to your heart.
Improved Muscle strength
Walking will stimulate and activate all of the major muscle groups in your lower body. These include the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and gluteal muscles.
Potential Weight Control
Walking is a form of exercise. It will burn some calories, albeit not a lot. Incorporating a regular walking routine along with proper nutrition can help keep your weight, in pregnancy, under control.
Potential Improved Blood Sugar Control
Similarly, exercise is known to improve blood sugar regulation. It is unclear if exercise alone can prevent the development of gestational diabetes, but there is very little downside in trying!
You can check my post on gestational diabetes and the glucose tolerance test here.
Back Pain Relief
If done properly, walking can also help relieve some back discomfort that you may develop during pregnancy. Most back pain is caused from a change in your pelvic alignment, leading to a condition known as anterior pelvic tilt. Strengthening your glute muscles can help restore the natural pelvic alignment.
There is a good link between exercise and mood improvement. This is due to the release of natural endorphins that happen after you exercise.
How long should I walk for?
When you are first starting out, I recommend walking for 10 minutes at a time and seeing how your body responds.
If you are able to do this without too much fatigue, you can try taking a 10 minute walk, 2 or 3 times per day.
Once that becomes easy, you can go for a 15-20 minute walk once per day.
How many steps should a pregnant woman walk a day?
In pregnancy, there is no set number of steps you should take per day.
The absolute best way to determine how much you should walk is to…
…listen to your body!
- If you are feeling great, then feel free to do a little more.
- If you are feeling fatigued, then cut back.
The key is to never overexert yourself or to walk to the point of exhaustion!
If you have been placed on bed rest, then be sure to talk to your doctor for personalized recommendations.
Is too much walking bad during early pregnancy?
Too much of anything can be a bad thing. In theory, it is possible to walk too much during early pregnancy.
In reality, it is unlikely that you will get to the point that you are walking too much. Just like before, listen to your body.
If you are unsure about anything, ask your doctor!
So with that said, let’s talk about some do’s and dont’s of walking in pregnancy.
Now let’s go over a few safety tips you should heed while walking during pregnancy.
The very first thing you should always do throughout your pregnancy is to stay hydrated.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
It is very easy to get dehydrated in pregnancy, especially if it’s hot out, and you are exercising.
- Do drink a sufficient amount of water every single day
- Don’t exercise without water handy
How much water should you drink?
Look at the color of your urine. Try to achieve a pale yellow color throughout the day.
The next thing you need to do is take care of your feet.
Remember the venous stasis we talked about earlier? One of the ways that it manifests is through swollen feet.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes that provide adequate support. You may also need to go up a size if your feet tend to swell a lot.
- Do wear comfortable, well-supported shoes
- Don’t wear sandals for long walks
These mesh walking shoes have raving reviews on Amazon and are super affordable.
Consider Abdominal Support
If you are in the late second trimester or third trimester, it is important to consider using a support girdle/maternity belt.
Your uterus creates an asymmetric load on your spine, which can lead to worsening low back pain during exercises such as walking.
A pelvic girdle will help redistribute some of that weight evenly in your pelvis, which can alleviate some of the pressure in your lower back.
Pay Attention To The Temperature
Another safety tip to consider is the temperature in which you will walk in.
Do your best to avoid walking in very hot or humid environments. It’s best to walk in a cool area with plenty of ventilation.
Heat can lead to symptoms of dehydration, dizziness, and even fainting.
- Do wear cool clothing whenever you are taking a long walk
- Don’t take long walks in excessively hot/humid environments
Be Aware Of Your Body
The last thing that you need to focus on is how you are feeling.
Before taking a long walk, it is a good idea to have a snack that has carbohydrates and/or protein. This will give you enough energy to get through your walk. For more information on how much protein you should be consuming in pregnancy check out my post on protein powder in pregnancy.
If at any point you begin to feel dizzy or faint, then STOP!
If you notice any vaginal bleeding, then STOP!
If you notice any contractions or lower abdominal/pelvic pain, then STOP!
- Do listen to your body at all times
- Don’t do any type of exercise if you are feeling unwell in the slightest
Are There Risks of Not Walking During Pregnancy?
There are certainly risks to not walking during pregnancy.
Studies have confirmed that physical inactivity in pregnancy can lead to
- Increased risk for blood clots (deep venous thrombosis)
- Bone demineralization
- Muscle atrophy and de-conditioning
These complications can be seen in patients placed on prolonged bedrest during pregnancy. If you have been placed on bedrest, learn how to exercise your upper and lower body while in bed.
3 Simple Walking Workouts You Could Do In Pregnancy by Trimester
In this next section, we will go over simple walking workout guidelines per trimester.
But before you do any of these exercises, it is a good idea to stretch.
Two of the most common areas that need stretching are:
- The calves: You can easily stretch your calves up against a wall like in the picture below.
- The hip flexors: Which can be stretched by placing one foot up on an elevated surface, squeezing your glute muscles and leaning forward.
Walking during pregnancy in the first trimester
The first trimester lasts until 13 weeks of gestation. During this time frame, you can tolerate the most amount of walking.
- If you are a beginner, start by taking a 10-15 minute walk, at least 3-4x per week.
- Once you feel comfortable, you can take a 10-15 minute walk, 2-3x per day, 3-4x per week.
- Alternatively, if 10-15 minutes seem too easy, you can increase the duration to 20-30 minutes per day, 3-4x per week.
As always, increase slowly and see how your body responds.
Walking during pregnancy in the second trimester
The second trimester starts after 13 weeks and lasts up to the 26th week of pregnancy.
At this point, your uterus will be a lot bigger, and you may not be able to tolerate as much walking. But if you have been walking since the first trimester, you could actually continue to build up your distance.
- If you are a beginner, start by walking 10-15 minutes per day, 3-4x per week.
- If you have been walking throughout the first trimester, you can do 20-30 minutes per day, 3-4x per week.
- Alternatively, you can do 15-20 minutes, 2-3x per day.
Walking during pregnancy in the third trimester
At this point, you are beyond 26 weeks of gestation. You may have to begin adapting your physical activity based on how your pregnancy is going.
- If you are a beginner, start by walking 10 minutes per day 3-4x per week.
- As you get more comfortable, increase to 15-20 minutes, 2-3x per day, 3-4x per week.
- Alternatively, you can work your way up to 20-30 minutes per day if you feel that you are recovering from the walking workouts well.
Lastly, never worry about the speed in which you are walking or the actual distance you are covering.
The most important thing is that you are actively moving to reap the benefits of this wonderful exercise!
Can too much walking cause a miscarriage?
There is no evidence to suggest that walking can cause a miscarriage. The most common causes of miscarriage in the first trimester are genetic.
Does walking make labor easier?
We cannot say for certain if walking makes labor easier. There also isn’t any conclusive evidence that walking induces labor.
I have an entire article on the truth about natural ways to induce labor.
What other exercises can I do during pregnancy?
Aside from walking, there are plenty of other exercises you can do in pregnancy. I have entire articles on
- Leg exercises you can do in pregnancy
- Arm exercises during your pregnancy
- Ab exercises that are safe to do in pregnancy
- Cardio workout you can do while pregnant
- Exercises to help prepare you for labor and childbirth
The same rules apply:
Always ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to exercise in pregnancy. Never overexert yourself, and avoid exercises that aren’t safe in pregnancy.
These include crunches/sit-ups, twisting exercises, high-intensity exercises, plyometric exercises and heavy resistance training.
I have an entire post on Exercises to Avoid In Pregnancy for more detailed information.
In Conclusion: Is walking good during pregnancy?
Walking is one of the best things you can do during pregnancy to:
- Improve your fitness
- Increase total body circulation
- Improve your mood
- and so much more
There is no specific landmark to determine when you should start walking in pregnancy. If your doctor says it is okay, you can start walking workouts as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
Just make sure to start off nice and slow and work your way up.
So now I want to hear from you.
Have you started walking since becoming pregnant?
When did you start?
Comment below and let me know!
Related Posts On Walking During Pregnancy
- Does Walking Actually Induce Labor
- How To Get In (Better) Shape During Pregnancy
- Fat Loss During Pregnancy- [Can It Be Done?]
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Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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