A recent BBC News article asked the question ‘Are baby exercise classes the next big thing?’ The article raised interesting points about the health and fitness concerns parents have for their babies in a climate of increasing childhood obesity and declining physical activity. Essentially, the article suggested that the earlier a baby was entered into a baby exercise routine, the less susceptible that child was to obesity and apathy. This guide offers some information and advice regarding baby exercise patterns.
Early-in-Life Exercise Routines
According to research by Sylvia Klein, an expert and prolific author on the subject of pregnancy and infant welfare, entering your baby into a movement programme or exercise regime increases the chances that your baby will talk earlier, eat better, sleep more restfully, and undergo faster development of their motor functions than a non-exercised baby. However, it’s not necessary to pay out for expensive baby exercise classes, as the BBC’s question implies. What follows is a short collection of ideas and tips to help you exercise healthily with your baby.
First, some general guidelines to remember:
Keep baby exercise sessions under half an hour each time, and don’t exceed two sessions per day.
Speak to your doctor for ideas on which exercises to take part in. Not all baby exercise is appropriate for all infants, so talk with your GP about the ones which you would like to do.
Buy a mat or use a soft blanket to lay your baby on while you do the baby exercises.
Listen to your baby – if he or she is clearly unhappy with the exercises then stop.
Don’t exercise a baby which has just eaten – that’s asking for trouble.
Keep your movements relaxed and fluent. Don’t force your baby’s joints into position. You’ll be surprised at how firm you can be, but don’t make it uncomfortable.
Talk constantly and communicate with your baby – make the exercise fun and lively.
Exercise the joints which are closest to your baby’s torso and radiate the movements outward; from the hip, to the knee, to the ankle, to the toes for example.
With these guidelines in mind, here are a few exercise ideas you can try at home. None of these cost anything to do, and they are designed to help you bond with your baby, while hopefully having some fun.
Pectoral & Chest Exercise
Lay your baby on his or her back and take each wrist or hand in yours. Stretch your baby’s arms wide apart. Then bring your baby’s hands all the way back across their chest so that their right hand is on their left shoulder and vice versa, and their little arms are crossed across their chest. Repeat this several times, applying pressure according to the strength with which your baby responds.
Hand to Opposite Foot
As the name suggest, this baby exercise involves contact being made between the left foot and right hand, or the right foot and left hand. With your baby lying on their back, bring their foot up to their opposite hand and hold them there for a few seconds. Then repeat with the other hand and foot. This is a good baby exercise for the back and the hips, and stretched big muscles in your baby’s thighs and backside.
Gently holding your baby by the lower legs or by the feet, rotate your baby’s legs as though were cycling. Technically, a backwards-pedaling motion has the best effects. This is good exercise for the knees, hips, thighs and calves, and if you’re holding your baby by the feet then their ankles will also be exercised. The back and bum will also benefit from this one.
It’s called ‘the sidekick’ because it describes the basic motions of this maneuver. Again with your baby lying on their back, bring their right leg out and across their left leg, as though they were kicking an imaginary football. Bring the leg far enough round so that the toes of the foot touch the mat or blanket they’re lying on and the hip lifts slightly on its own. Repeat this several times and do the same for the other leg. This twisting motion is good for the flexibility and strength of many areas of the torso and legs.
It is possible to train your baby to do full sit ups by laying them on their back, holding their feet down, and tempting them to sit up with food or toys. We don’t advise this for everyone however, since most babies won’t be strong enough. Instead, hold your baby by the hands and slowly lift them into a sitting position. If their neck is not yet strong enough to support the weight of their head, you will need to support it for them. Lower your baby back down to a prone position and repeat.
Baby Swimming & Yoga
Your baby will also benefit from exercise outside the house. Babies’ instinct and comfort in the water is now pretty widely known, and most have heard of the ‘dive reflex’. Swimming is great exercise for your baby’s muscles and is generally a relaxing and fun atmosphere for the parents. We don’t recommend swimming without expert guidance however, and there are classes at most gyms and leisure centres across the UK which will give you specialist advice and keep your baby safe.
Yoga is a great way to exercise your baby’s muscles and your own too. Just like the swimming classes, there are classes all over the UK which offer expert baby yoga tuition. These classes do tend to be quite expensive though, so you might like to consider simply investing in one of the specialist baby books or DVDs on this subject – Olivers stocks several. That way you can turn up your favourite music and work out with your baby from the comfort and security of your own home!