By Birgitta Lauren

Whether you are very fit or have never exercised in your life, walking is a great and suitable exercise for most pregnant women. It's OK and never too late to start walking at any time during your pregnancy. It's easy and low impact on the joints and requires only a good pair of sneakers and appropriate clothing for the weather on hand. Stay cool in summer by walking in the morning or in the evening, or walk on a treadmill in doors in an air-conditioned room. Wear minimal clothing that "breaths". Clothing made from cotton are good, and Supplex™ or Nike's dryFIT™ fabrics also wick sweat and wetness away to keep you dry. Don't forget to wear appropriate socks as well as keeping cool is important. Exercise will improve your cooling system to keep your baby cool, but hot weather or fabrics that keep you too hot may inhibit your cooling ability. In winter wear several layers of breathable clothing to be removed as needed.

Walking guidelines

  • walk at least 3-6 times a week. If you're unfit start with 10 minutes, adding 5
    minutes every week, working up until you can comfortably walk for at least
    30 - 60 minutes.
  • for an accurate measure of your exercise intensity, use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Your heart rate is not an accurate measurement during pregnancy and no longer of any concern, unless irregular.
  • LISTEN to your body. Only walk at a pace that is a "comfortable challenge" to you on that particular day. Some days will feel easier than others - use that energy and speed it up. If you're feeling tired - slow down, or take a nap. You can always walk later or tomorrow.
  • focus on your posture, head up, shoulder back, chest up, belly tight and
    lifted (as best you can) and stride with bent elbows and knees, rolling your
    foot from heel to toe. Control the foot roll with the tibia muscles on your
    lower front legs. When hiking or walking up hill, lean with a straight body
    from your heels rather than your waist to avoid back strain and take longer
    steps with bent knees. On down hills, be really careful to control your heel-
    to-toe foot roll (toes first may cause knee strains).
  • always stretch after walking. Your hamstrings, lower back, hips (front & back), quadriceps, calf and chest muscles will need appropriate stretching to avoid tightening. Despite the Relaxin hormone, or in spite of it, pregnancy decreases your flexibility making stretching even more important.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk to prevent dehydration*.
  • Preferably walk with a friend, spouse or trainer and always bring a cell phone - just incase you need to call your doctor.
  • If you feel any unusual pain, bleeding, faint or irregular heart beat; STOP, sit down, drink water, call you doctor.

Walk you way to a healthier pregnancy and baby.

High risk pregnancy.
There are only very few categories of "high risk" pregnancies where walking is not recommended. Such as a weak or incompetent cervix, bleeding, preeclampsia, amniotic fluid leak or your water has broken. Other categories, such as having undergone fertility treatments, previous miscarriages, breech baby, back and/or hip aches, diabetes, hypertension and most other "high risk" categories can only be improved with exercise according to J. F Kerin MD, former professor of OB/Gyn, UCLA School of medicine, director of Reproductive Medicine, Cedar Sinai Medical Center Los Angles, and present professor of OB/Gyn University of Adelaide Australia. -"the fitter you are, the more efficient your body will be at protecting the fetus and carrying a pregnancy to full term".

  • Dehydration is the number cause of premature delivery, so make sure to drink plenty of water. Also make sure to eat a light and healthy snack (fruit, whole grain toast etc..) before and after exercise to replenish your glucose levels. Never exercise on an empty stomach, as you may get hypoglycemic (low blood sugar).

Borg's RPE - scale
1. Sleeping 6. Moderately intense exercise
2. Awake 7. Intense exercise
3. Light exertion: typing 8. Very intense exercise: speed walking/jogging
4. Strolling 9. Too hard
5. Moderate exercise 10. Adrenalin-driven action (your house is on fire)

· " feel" how hard you are working and work somewhere between a 5 - 8
( 50 - 80 % of your maximum capacity).

* Exercise in Pregnancy Raul Artal MD, Williams and Wilkins 1991.
* Exercise during pregnancy and postpartum period. Committee Opinion ACOG
January 2002.
* Exercising through your pregnancy James f. Clapp III MD, Human Kinetics 1998.