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Exercise with Your Baby

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: May 18, 2020

Reviewed: December 11, 2023

Exercise with Your Baby
Kerkez/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Physical activity is important during every stage of life, even infancy.  For example, activity can encourage rolling over, crawling and walking, as well as cognitive development. And, it can lead to a preference for active play.

Encourage Your Baby to Move

Engage infants in activities that allow them to try different body movements and explore their surroundings. Activity time is a great bonding period for babies and parents, too. So, coo away parents! Active play is best when done at several short periods each day. A few ideas include:

  • Spending part of each day with lively baby games.
  • Holding playtime on the floor and helping your infant explore his or her surroundings.
  • Encouraging your baby to move her or his arms, legs, hands and feet.

This play time also can help your baby learn to crawl. Try placing toys and other objects your baby likes just out of their reach. Or, use pillows and soft cushions to build mazes for your baby to move through.

Always avoid rough play and ask your health care provider about age-appropriate movements and activities.

There also are structured exercises that benefit both parent and baby. They typically incorporate your baby into strength building and stretching exercises. Some also provide simple dance moves to get you and your baby gently swaying together. Several online parenting websites offer sample programs. Check with your health care provider about the program you may want to try. Make sure the moves are safe and appropriate for your baby.

Family and Friend Play Dates

For the added benefit of socialization, consider a parent-infant play group. Many gyms or local community centers offer play groups. Or, you can set up an informal group with friends and neighbors. In addition to floor exercises, some play groups offer aqua aerobic options. An advantage is that these groups give you the chance to mingle and share with other new parents. Find a program in your area that has group leaders trained in childhood development. They can better guide you on the moves that your baby is ready to try.

When in-person socializing is not an option, consider online options. Find friends who might be interested in joining a virtual group, which can enable babies and parents to engage with one another from afar.

Move More with Your Baby

You can get yourself in shape while stimulating your baby with new smells, sounds and views. Get outdoors and walk or jog with your baby in a stroller, or go for a bike ride with your infant secured in a baby safety seat. These activities stimulate your baby’s senses. On these outings, you want to give your baby time to move around, stretch and explore. So, take along a blanket and find a spot to take a rest. Take your baby out of the stroller or bike seat and play away! Remember to always watch your baby closely.

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