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Is walking a good pregnancy exercise?

Walking is a great, safe exercise for mums-to-be. It’s an ideal way to make sure that you’re getting the exercise you need in pregnancy.

Brisk walking works your heart and lungs (ACPWH 2010, Nascimento et al 2012, NHS Choices 2013), without jarring your knees and ankles. It’s also a free activity that you can easily incorporate into your daily life, so you’ll be more likely to keep it up (Nascimento et al 2012).

For extra motivation, go for walks with friends and family. This can help to pass the time and encourage you to walk for longer stretches.

How can I prepare for walking in pregnancy?

If you walked regularly before being pregnant, keep doing it (ACPWH 2010). If you’re new to walking, start with a short, 15-minute comfortable stroll, three times a week (Nascimento et al 2012).

Once you’ve got into the habit of walking regularly, you can build up to faster, 30-minute walking sessions, four or more times a week (Nascimento et al 2012, NHS Choices 2013, Wright 2010). If you have a high fitness level, you can walk for longer than that. Just be sure to slow down or stop if you feel overtired, unwell, or feel any pain. Your body will generally be able to tell you when it’s time to stop.
If you’re short on time, incorporate walking into your daily routine. So walk short distances rather than drive, take the bus only part of the way, or use your lunch break to get outside and stretch your legs.

Wear sunscreen and a hat if you’re walking on a sunny day, and take a bottle of water with you to help prevent dehydration. Being dehydrated can raise your body temperature, and overheating isn’t good for you or your baby.

How long should I walk for?

NHS guidelines recommend walking for 150 minutes a week in pregnancy, which is a 30-minute walk, five times a week (Start 4 life nd). If you only walk now and then, you won’t get the benefits of regular exercise.
Try to be active every day. But if you really can’t manage that, any walking will still be of some benefit to you.

While you’re walking, you may want to try doing your pelvic floor exercises.

How should I adapt my walking throughout pregnancy?

First trimester

You won’t need to stray too far from your usual walking habits. Wear walking shoes or comfortable trainers, to give your feet the support they need. When you’re walking, place your heel on the ground first, and then roll on to your toes, rather than placing your feet flat on the ground.

If it’s hot and humid outside, give brisk walking a miss, or slow your pace. Or try another form of exercise, such as swimming.

Second trimester

You will probably feel more energetic now than you felt in your first trimester, and walking may seem easier. You may even be able to increase the distance that you walk. However, you may feel more unwieldy now that your bump is starting to show.

Keep your back straight, your head and chin level, and your eyes on what lies ahead. You can swing your arms to aid balance and intensify your workout if you like. Keeping a good posture when you walk will ensure that you don’t strain your back.

You may notice that the way you walk is changing now, and you may waddle slightly. This is because your body is adjusting to all the changes that are happening to you (Limberry and Gilleard 2000). Your hips and ankles are doing a lot of the work, so they may ache if you overdo things (Foti et al 2000). Listen to your body, and don’t walk to the point of exhaustion (OTIS 2010).

If you’re struggling to carry on a conversation while you’re walking (ACPWH 2010), slow down a bit, or consider walking for shorter periods.

Third trimester

Keep walking for as long as you can, though you may want to avoid steep or uneven paths that could put you off-balance. If you have any pelvic or back pain while walking, talk to your midwife or doctor. They may refer you to a physiotherapist.

Last reviewed: April 2017


ACPWH. 2010. Fit and Safe. Advice to physiotherapists and other health professionals. Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Women’s Health

Foti T, Davids JR, Bagley A. 2000. A biomechanical analysis of gait during pregnancy. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 82:625

Limberry JK, Gilleard W, 2000. The stance phase of walking during late pregnancy. Temporospatial and ground reaction force variables Clinics in Sports Medicine 95(3):247-253

Nascimento SL, Surita FG, Cecatti, JG. 2012. Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 24(6), 387-394

NHS Choices. 2013. Exercise in pregnancy. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. [Accessed September 2013]

Oken E, Ning Y, Rifas-Shiman SL. 2006. Associations of physical activity and inactivity before and during pregnancy with glucose tolerance. Obstet Gynecology 105(5):1200-1207

OTIS.2010. Exercise and pregnancy. Organisation of Teratology Information Specialists. [Accessed September 2013]

Sorensen TK, Williams MA, I-Min L, et al. 2003. Recreational physical activity during pregnancy and risk of preeclampsia. Hypertension 41:1273

Start for life. nd.This bump is made for walking – staying active during pregnancy. NHS Start for life. [Accessed September 2013]

Wright M. 2010. Pregnancy and physical activity. Patient UK. [Accessed September 2013]

Article first posted here by The Baby Centre