10 reasons to walk during pregnancy

A quick Wednesday post to keep up momentum because things are getting CRAZY in TLMB house. (Here’s one thing they don’t tell you to do during maternity leave: Try to sell your house and move.)

Here’s the best piece of pregnancy advice I can give you if you want to possibly promote an easier labor. (I say this knowing that I am in now way a health or pregnancy expert, but my OB said this habit contributed to my 12-hour start-to-finish first time labor.)

Walk. A lot.

Having grown up in a sidewalk-free exurb, basically on a country road, I have always had a yearning to be able to walk to wherever I want to go. In ninth grade I walked home from my high school (several miles down that high-speed country road, much to my parents’ fury), in college during a particularly bad breakup I would walk until I got lost and then find my way back, and in 2013 when I started working in downtown Cleveland and simultaneously moved to the Ohio City neighborhood, I opted to hoof it the two miles to work and the two miles back most days.

The walk was like a daily meditation for me. I didn’t have to deal with traffic, I got to feel the sun on my face and before I *ran my Fitbit through the washer & dryer it confirmed I was clocking 13,000 steps a day.

[*Not recommended]

10 reasons to walk during pregnancySo when I got pregnant, I didn’t abandon this habit. Sure, I slowed down a little and  took my coworkers up on their increasingly insistent offers to take me home at the end of the day more often as I got  closer to my due date. But for the most part I waddled my ever-expanding body over the Detroit-Superior bridge each morning, listening to the gulls and watching the skyscrapers come into view. It was peaceful and invigorating and it was good for heart and soul.

I walked to work and back two days before I went into labor, and I even took the dog for a really long walk in a fit of nervous energy the day before I went into labor.

I have a runner friend who is planning to run a 5k when she’s 35 weeks pregnant. I used to go to spinning classes where seemingly all the instructors were pregnant and not only kicking ass on their bikes but able to yell instructions to us at the same time. I tried running once or twice early on in pregnancy, but the jiggling was too much for my bladder. But I can tell you with some degree of confidence that you don’t have to do Crossfit or train for a marathon while you’re expecting. Just put your shoes on and take a good long walk every day.

While I really believe this daily exercise contributed to my quick and fairly easy labor, I cannot guarantee the same for you. But even if I can’t, here are 10 good reasons to lace up your walking shoes (even as you strain to reach your toes toward the end):

  1. Walking time is great mulling time, and there’s plenty to mull over during pregnancy. Baby names, whether or not to find out the baby’s sex, how you’re going to announce the news, etc. If you’re stressing over a decision, think about it on a walk.
  2. It can keep your relationship with your dog strong. As you know, I have a dear dog (her name is Louise) and walking with her each day was sweet confirmation that even though everything in my life was about to turn upside down, I still had a furry sidekick who will see me through it. It was sweet to see her become more gentle with me as I got bigger and less agile.
  3. Walking is a great time to binge-listen to podcasts. (Someday in the near future, I’ll post my pregnancy podcast recommendations — stay tuned.) Safety alert, though: Always keep one ear free to listen to your surroundings. I don’t want to be responsible for you getting hit by a car or kidnapped.
  4. Fresh air can do wonders for nausea. I was fortunate to have mild morning sickness (more food aversions than anything) so I’m not going to say that getting outside will cure your barfs, but in my experience getting out of the house and getting the wind in my face (except on garbage day) certainly made me feel better.
  5. You’re going to be exhausted either way. At least you can feel like you earned it. Listen, I hear you. Especially during the first trimester, pregnancy is exhausting. My average bedtime was 7:30 p.m. until I hit about 17 weeks. I couldn’t have imagined trying to maintain a workout routine involving heavy breathing for long periods of time. But walking is doable. And I promise, you’ll feel better falling into bed on the days you took a walk.
  6. Thinking about murdering your partner? Are you crying for no reason? Walk those feelings out. Pregnancy hormones can make you crazy. Walk out your feelings, and when you’re done, you can eat your feelings with less guilt.
  7. Feel confident about your changing body. The steady weight gain during pregnancy, while perfectly healthy and important to supporting your growing baby, can be weird and unnerving. Staying active can reassure you that you’re occupying a strong, capable body that not only can handle the increasing load but also will be there for you when it’s go-time.
  8. All that activity can be soothing for the baby. I found that sitting still later on meant all sorts of rib-tingling gymnastics from my baby-to-be, but a good long walk lulled him to sleep. Fair warning, though: That need for constant motion to go to sleep can follow him out of the womb. He spends at least one nap a day strapped into a baby carrier refusing to let me sit down.
  9. Walking is an easy date. The Husband and I have maintained a once-a-week date night since we moved in together. Usually this just means dinner and a few drinks and catching up on our lives. Let me tell you, dinner gets a lot shorter when you’re not drinking and are fantasizing about going to sleep. A nice long weekend walk (especially if your destination is ice cream) is a good way to catch up on each other’s lives and stay bonded during this time.
  10. You can buy new shoes guilt-free. The threat of swelling and/or growing feet keeps many pregnant women from investing in new shoes of any sort (unless their feet have already expanded and nothing fits.) But you need a good pair of walking shoes, so go ahead and buy them.

There you have it. Get your shoes on. Now I’ve got to get back to packing up the kitchen and trying to deal with the fact my 11-week-old is probably teething. (?!?)


10 reasons to walk during pregnancy

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