The Benefits of Pre-Natal Hiking
What? Hiking while pregnant?
This brings up images of possible pain, belly discomfort and risks. Yet, growing research is proving that hikes, with reasonable difficulties, are beneficial to the development of baby, and strengthening of mommy.
- Helps strengthen the back and spine, allowing for reduced pain
- Long steady movement of internal organs helps with swelling, constipation and bloating
- May help prevent, or treat, gestational diabetes
- Boosts your energy
- Increase in mood
- Improves your posture
- Promotes toning of muscles, strength and endurance
- Helps you sleep better, especially after a full-day trek
- If hiking is done in conjunction with other prenatal exercises, it can keep you fit during your term and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This makes it easier for you to get back to normal after your baby is born.
- Walking and gentle hiking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints
- Moderate exercise, which comes from activities like hiking can greatly improve vitamin absorption and fetal development
When during a pregnancy?
Ideally the first half of the second trimester is the ideal time for more strenuous hiking. However, moms have found ways to do hiking into their 7th and 8th months. The first and third trimesters can have shorter and gentler hikes.
Grades and inclines?
If the idea of hiking while pregnant freaks you out, consider a 30 minute park path. Then, the next time, progress to a more strenuous hike on dirt, with a slight incline.
Hiking while pregnant has the greatest benefits for people who hike frequently. It comes with less pain than a non-hiker jumping into a big trek. Exercise activity spikes are not recommended.
Multi-day backpacking trips can be scheduled, but it is best to plan to carry the lightest pack. Stick to a one-night overnighter. 5-7 miles or less one-way is max with a normal incline trail.
Consider simply starting with 1-hour hikes. Lots of them. Twice a week at least. Go as far as you're comfortable, but no more.
How to prepare:
- Treadmill - An excellent strength training start
- Other prenatal exercises like swimming and yoga
- Use trekking poles for stability. You're carrying extra weight now, and your center of gravity has changed.
- Plan your hike length ahead of time. Use review sites like AllTrails which give reviews from previous trekkers on the length and difficulty.
- Strong boots, likely a size larger
What not to do?
- Steep cliff trails
- Trails with lots of steps are large boulders to climb
- Multi-night overnight backpacking trips. Stick to one-nighters.
- Forget your water. Stay hydrated. Drink more than on normal exercises. Remember, your baby adds body mass, causing more perspiration.
- Keep your blood sugar up with snack bars, healthy supplements, and trailmix.
- Consider protein bars
- If it doesn't feel right, stop and go back
- Best before the 7th month
- Stay under 10,000 feet in elevation
- Tired and sore? Start small. City park walks. Build up, keep it regular.
- Ask your obstetrician if you've got special concerns
- Keep a relaxing day in between your hiking days. This will help greatly on multi-day treks as well
- Consider carrying the lightest load of the backpacks if on an overnighter
- Bring drink with electrolytes like coconut water and Gatorade.
- Consider a size larger boot, due to swollen "pregnancy feet"
- Do be aware that you will be doing lots of peeing. So plan accordingly.
- Frequent eating is better than one "destination meal".
- Slow down, and have hiking partners who are willing to hike slow for you.
Hiking and mountain treks have exploded in popularity, with increasing access to public lands, and trail development. Soon-to-be moms, using reasonable precautions, can take part in experiencing picturesque beauty, and the peace and energy that comes along with accomplishing a hike.
Mike Cutler is an avid Sierra Nevada explorer, and product tester for EarthTrek Gear. His lifestyle blog and contributions on the AllTrails community bring awarenes to newfound trails throughout much of California. His family lives in Reno, Nevada.
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