Worried about weight gain in pregnancy? Walk more, says research

Walking more often while pregnant helps prevent excess gestational weight gain, according to studies

Woman going for a walk during pregnancy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pregnancy can come with a lot of complications – understandably so, as growing another person isn't exactly a small feat. One of these issues is gestational weight gain, as your body accumulates excess fat during pregnancy.

Even though you might not be doing intense HIIT or weightlifting workouts, you can still exercise to reduce the impact of excess gestational weight gain. One of the best, simplest low-impact ways to exercise is to listen to a podcast or album in your best workout earbuds, lace up those best shoes for walking, and hit the great outdoors.

One study, published by researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, found "pregnant people who live in walkable neighborhoods in New York City have lower odds of excessive gestational weight gain than those who live elsewhere in the city". 

While excess weight gain is normal and nothing to be ashamed of, research has found gaining too much weight can lead to health complications for both mother and child. The study above found gestational weight gain (GWG) to be associated with pregnancy complications, long-term postpartum weight retention, childhood asthma, and obesity. However, pregnant people living in the top quarter of neighborhoods ranked for walkability had 13% lower odds of excessive GWG. 

Pregnancy exercise

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although part of this study is based around urban planning and economics rather than exercise, it does show the benefits of a daily stroll. Walking for weight loss is an incredible form of exercise for all kinds of people: you could be a complete fitness beginner intimidated at the intensity of a run, but still wanting to move your body; you could have joint pain during high-intensity exercise and be looking for a low-impact solution; you could be pregnant. All tons of reasons to go for a stroll.

Walking to lose weight doesn't have to be an enormous hike up a mountain: something as simple as taking 30 minutes during your lunch break at work to go for a stroll around the neighborhood can help you burn fat, lose weight and improve circulation, reducing the impact of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

One study found 60 inactive women who began walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, experienced a significant decrease in hip circumference after just eight weeks of walking. Unlike other forms of dedicated exercise, walking is easy to incorporate into your day: simply take the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus one stop early, or suggest a walk to a coffee shop instead of that sit-down meeting.

Bonus points if you can get to a park and turn your phone off for the duration of your stroll, as being in nature will lower your levels of cortisol, the hormone which encourages your body to cling onto fat.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.