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How to Exercise With a Newborn

Newborn Exercise Basics

To begin implementing regular exercise with your newborn, you'll want to capture his interest first. Start by simply putting your new little person on a blanket to watch you exercise. Let your baby see you doing exercises, enjoying them, and looking and feeling great. Children of exercising parents grow up accepting the exercise habit as both natural and necessary, which is the first step on the road to an active and healthy lifestyle. Keep reading for suggestions on integrating physical activity into your newborn's routine.

Why is it some children seem to develop at a faster rate than their peers? These children may have only one special advantage over others -- parents who actively care about their growth, both physical and intellectual. Sadly, though, many parents who are very concerned about mental development give little thought to exercising their babies.

By the time babies reach the age of one month (or they recover their full birth weight), they need and enjoy movement -- and not just the moving they do on their own. At this stage of life, babies need their parents' encouragement to move. As the baby gets older, movement and exercise help him maintain balance, develop strength, and use new muscles. Exercise at any early age also establishes a habit of activity that carries over into adulthood.

What You Can Do

The first step toward promoting physical activity in your child is to be active yourself! A child's attitude toward exercise is definitely shaped by that of the parents. Active children generally have active parents who encourage their children to exercise. On the opposite side of the coin, inactive youngsters frequently have sedentary parents who do not promote physical activity.

Try not to put your child in a playpen or crib unless it is nap time. When he is awake, give him every possible opportunity to crawl around on the floor and explore. If the child must be in a crib or playpen, supply objects -- rings that go on a spool, blocks, nesting boxes, toys with dials -- that stimulate manipulatory skills.

You can start exercising your child when he is about one month old or has regained his birth weight. While any time is appropriate for an exercise session, bath time or the evening is probably the best. The session can be long or short depending on your child's response. Keep the length of the session consistent, and hold it at the same time every day. The idea is to fit exercise into the daily routine of both parent and child.

If you perform the exercises in the same place every day, the child becomes familiar with the feel of the floor, the bed, or the towel. Consequently, when placed in that position, he shows readiness by kicking, cooing, twisting, and smiling.

Dress the child in loose-fitting diapers, a swimsuit, other loose-fitting outfits, or -- if you and the baby don't mind -- let him exercise bare bottomed. The room temperature should be comfortable.

If you turn on some music, you give the child a chance to make a pleasurable association between sound and exercise.

Most important of all, make sure you exercise with the child!

As the infant grows older, the whole family should join in the fun. It has been said our overurbanized, mechanized society is driving each member of the family his or her separate way. A mother's or father's job may require them to travel extensively; children may be in a nursery school or a child care center; the mother who is not employed frequently devotes time to community or social activities. Consequently, the family has less time together to communicate, less time to touch, less time to share.

All too often, individual family members are involved in exercise programs that reduce their time together even more. Perhaps Dad plays golf, while Mom goes to a health club. These efforts toward fitness are often inadequate, and the absence of family members makes the family suffer. An opportunity for real family togetherness is wasted.

Learning together, touching, talking, and sharing improve human relations. Creating a family gymnastics program and enjoying it on a regular basis is a terrific way to enjoy time together as well as to keep in shape. After all, you owe it to your toddler, who, having enjoyed the diaper fitness program, expects to learn new skills.

Set time aside in the evening for play. Turn off the television and allow 30 minutes of gymnastics, tumbling-type activities, or family wrestling.

In the following pages, we will provide you with exercise suggestions and instructions from birth through age three. Move to the next section for newborn exercises for one month up to six months.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.