Walking or jogging on a treadmill is an effective cardiovascular exercise for anyone -- even pregnant women. It helps strengthen your lungs and heart, improves your mood, boosts energy levels, encourages better sleep, increases circulation and even prepares your body for labor. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine while pregnant -- especially if you haven’t been previously active or have any pregnancy complications.
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Let’s Get Physical
Warm up for five minutes by walking on the treadmill at a slow pace, 3 mph or less. Adjust the treadmill’s speed until you are slightly out of breath -- about 3.2 to 3.5 mph. Always practice proper form when walking -- keep your hips tucked beneath your shoulders, your head up and gaze straight in front of you. Swing your arms to increase the intensity of your workout and help maintain balance. Continue walking for at least 30 minutes or as long as you feel comfortable. To gradually return your heart rate to its normal pace following your workout, cool down for five minutes by reducing your speed to 2.5 mph or less.
Mix it Up
Add intervals -- bursts of higher-intensity exercise -- every few minutes to keep your muscles guessing and growing. For example, march in place for a minute or speed up your pace until you are almost at a jog for one minute. Or add a slight incline to increase the intensity and further challenge your muscles. Start by increasing your incline by just 1 percent at a time. Add more if you can continue to comfortably maintain the same pace. If you are an experienced runner, your doctor may allow you to continue running during your pregnancy, but always run at a slow pace where you can carry on a conversation.
Listen to Your Body
Reduce the intensity of your workout if needed as you get further into your pregnancy. Pay attention to how your body feels and never exercise to complete exhaustion. Always wear loose-fitting clothing and proper walking shoes that support your ankles and the arches of your feet. If it’s easier or more convenient, break your treadmill workout into smaller increments. For example, walk for 10 minutes after breakfast, another 10 minutes after lunch and the final 10 minutes while you watch television at night.
Watch it, Mama
Walk or run with extreme caution. The joints and ligaments in your body are looser during pregnancy and intense walking or running can lead to pain or injury. Do not walk so hard that you feel breathless, which can reduce your baby’s oxygen supply. Immediately stop walking and call your doctor if you experience dizziness, chest pain, extreme muscle weakness, calf swelling or pain, difficulty breathing, bleeding, contractions or apparent amniotic fluid leakage.