Baby Exercises: A Fitting Thing To Do

Each kick, each arm swing, each crawl; each exercise is a step forward in your baby's journey to adulthood. It is natural that you would like to help her in the process or at least make it a smooth transition. So, if you want to introduce your infant to exercises and games, you better find out the hows, whys, dos and donts about your baby fitness exercises.

'Have You Heard About Baby Exercise Classes?'
Infant exercise classes have surged on the American parenting scene. Nationwide, classes and facilities dedicated to children's exercise have opened up, with some classes aimed at children just a few months old. Exercise classes geared towards newborns and those infants under 12 months of age aim to help babies learn new skills, such as sitting up and rolling over, while other classes look to develop upper body strength and the hand-over-hand coordination needed for crawling.

But it's not just developmental skills that these classes teach. Some look to deepen the parent/child bond. To help do this, yoga classes have been designed with poses specially created for babies from birth to 4 years. Aside from these classes, there are also swimming and developmental play classes that parents are enrolling their babies in.

Although these classes still await a nod from medical experts, advocates of baby exercise programs feel that such exercise programs are helpful in a number of ways. They contribute to your child's developing language skills by helping your baby learn to obey simple commands such as "Let's do this", "Pick up the ball and give it to mom". Additionally, many activities in gym classes are done with songs that the children learn to sing.

Other suspected benefits of baby exercise classes include:

  • Helping your child learn to take turns, accept instructions and share
  • Stimulate your baby's senses. Exercise classes involve tactile, auditory, and visual stimulation. Children feel textures (such as the tautness of balloons, hardness of balls) and they respond to sounds, such as the commands of the instructor and the rhythm of the music. A bright and cheerful room atmosphere helps to stimulate your baby's sight
  • Supporters of infant yoga classes say that advantages of this type of exercise to your baby include increased immunity; better sleep, digestion and circulation; neuromuscular development; and better-regulated emotions and relaxation.

Tread With Caution
Baby exercise classes have become an established trend. But the general pediatric opinion is that your baby doesn't actually need a special fitness program for her body or to develop her motor skills. Babies get enough exercise doing what they normally do � crawl, walk, and play.

According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), there has been no data to suggest that structured programs or the promotion of conditioned responses will advance a baby's skills or provide any long-term benefit to normal infants. Moreover, the AAP feels that the possibility exists that adults may inadvertently exceed their infant's physical limitations by using structured exercise programs.

Because babies normally receive all the physical and mental exercise they require naturally, parents do not need specialized skills or equipment to provide an environment for the optimum development of their infant. Critics of structured infant exercise programs say that these classes should not be promoted as being therapeutically beneficial for the development of healthy infants. Instead, parents should be encouraged to provide a safe, nurturing, and minimally structured play environment for their infant.

However, if done safely, exercise class advocates feel these programs:

  • Can teach you different ways to interact with your baby
  • Help you bond with your little one, in the case of mommy/daddy-and-baby classes.
  • If an infant has a known physical or neurological problems, baby exercise classes and physical therapy can be extremely helpful for their development.

Each Step Counts
So, is getting your baby started on an exercise program harmful to them? Maybe, maybe not. Looking at the guidelines put out by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), it would seem that confining babies and young children to strollers, play pens, cars and infant seats for hours at a time may delay their development, such as rolling over, crawling, walking and even cognitive development.

NAPSE advocates baby physical activities for many reasons. They cite the fact that getting infants and young children turned on to exercise and physical activity from a young age helps to foster healthy, lifelong practices. Making physical activity a part of your baby's life may help reduce their risk of obesity later on. As well, promoting and nurturing enjoyment of movement and motor skill confidence and competence at an early age may contribute to healthy development and later participation in physical activity.

Try These Out
Parents can develop their own activities and games for the stimulation of their babies. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lay your infant on a blanket on the floor with a few toys
  • Select attractive materials: look for different shapes and colors, but make sure the toy is washable so your baby can grab, suck, throw and later on pass the objects from one hand to the other while you don't have to worry about germs all the time.
  • When the baby is learning to roll over, keep him motivated to keep trying by holding a favorite toy just out of his reach
  • Try playing peek-a-boo or patty-cake; help move your child's hands so she learns the motions
  • Carry the child to a new environment, set her down, and let her explore (the areas should be baby-proofed)

Mom and Baby Workouts
Moms that can't go for special baby exercises can also try out the option of mom and baby exercise programs like stroller rides and walking. For mothers, they are a good way to beat the Baby Blues as well as tackle that nagging postpartum flab.

These classes might be aimed at you but many instructors also encourage involvement of your baby. After all, you don't want to miss any chance to bond with your little one. Besides, mothers who take to regular exercise classes set a wonderful example for their babies by showing the way of a healthy lifestyle.

Learn more about keeping your baby active by checking out our baby forum.