How to Exercise With a Newborn

Upper Body Exercises for a Child, the Second Year

Babyhood is gone. From now on, when your child is awake, she is on the go. More and more, she exhibits her own personality, strengths, and abilities. Development of language and social, intellectual, and motor skills accelerates.

What does this have to do with exercise? Your child is constantly learning. By exercising your toddler every day, you help her learn to control her body. Becoming stronger and more coordinated means fewer bumps, bruises, and spills in her exploration efforts. On this page, we'll discuss the special requirements of the 12 to 22 month old baby and illustrate some toddler exercises to help her develop coordination.

Exercise: The Second Year

Understanding your baby's growth and development stage helps you tailor a program according to her individual personality and temperament.

Trunk exercises for abdominal muscles are often overlooked. But abdominal and lower back muscles control and support the body. Strengthen the trunk muscles first, then the arms and legs. As abdominal strength increases, other movements change and become smoother.

Your child's attention span is short. Take this into account when exercising together. Change exercises every 20 to 30 seconds. Changing exercises frequently increases coordination and concentration while decreasing the chance of injury or muscle soreness from overuse. We've provided a large variety of exercises, so you can change from one to another frequently and avoid boredom.

In this age group, your child will sometimes follow directions. After she is familiar with the exercise routine, she may initiate the exercises herself when you sit down together. However, the easiest and most enjoyable experience for both of you is for you to exercise with her.

In general, 30 to 45 minutes is a good period of time for your child's exercise program, but on some days, even 10 minutes is too long. We all have days when we need to rest, digest new information, and have a time-out from new experiences. Toddlers can also use a few hours or a day off here or there. Give your child this time to consolidate and solidify her learning.

Toddlers respond to music. Be sure to add various kinds to your routine. Music helps develop a natural rhythm and coordination that lasts long after the music fades.

Suggested Exercises: 12 to 22 Months

  • Lay-Back
    • Benefit: Strengthens abdominal and arm muscles


      exercise with newborn
      ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
      Upper body exercises for your child's second year focus on developing his back and abdominal muscles.
  1. Sit with your toddler lying between your bent legs, as shown in Step 1 above. Let her hold your thumbs, while you support her wrists and forearms with your fingers.

  2. Slowly pull her to a sitting position (let her use her arms and abdominal muscles as much as possible) as shown in Step 2 above.

  3. Slowly lower your toddler back to the floor.
Repeat 5 times.

Caution: Be sure her head is in line with her spine and not hanging backward.

  • Touch and Hug
    • Benefits:
      • Strengthens legs, shoulders, upper back, and arms

      • Increases flexibility
      • Provides body contact and closeness


        exercise with newborn
        ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    1. Position your toddler as shown in the first illustration above, letting her lean against you. Holding her right ankle and left hand, slowly bring the foot and hand together, as in the second illustration above. (Do not force the limbs together.)

    2. Stretch out the right leg and the left arm (high overhead). Repeat 3 to 5 times.

    3. Change to the other arm and leg. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

      Exercises for your newborn include Touch and Hug.

    4. Holding your child's wrists and hands, cross her arms over her chest. Hug!

      Exercises for your newborn include Touch and Hug.
      ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

    5. Slowly, stretch both of your child's arms above her head. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
  • Let's Squat!
    • Benefit: Strengthens entire leg, especially quadriceps muscles (fronts of thighs) and knees

      Exercises for your baby's second year include Let's Squat!
      ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

  1. Stand next to each other and position yourself as in Step 1 above: place your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward, hands on your hips.

  2. Bend your knees, lowering your hips and buttocks toward the floor. Push your buttocks back (out) as you squat, as in Step 2 above. Do not try to squat straight down or drop buttocks lower than the backs of your knees. Place your hands on the floor in front of you for stability.

  3. Push up and repeat 8 times
  • Hip Lift
    • Benefits:
      • Strengthens back muscles
      • Increases flexibility

        Exercises for your baby's second year include Hip Lift.
        ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

  1. Lay your toddler on her back, with her knees bent and her feet flat on the floor. Slip your hands around her waist, at the same time supporting her back (see Step 1 above).

  2. Help your toddler lift the trunk of her body 2 to 4 inches off the floor; encourage her to use her leg and buttock muscles (see Step 2 above). Hold for 2 to 3 seconds.

  3. Lower your toddler slowly back to the floor, keeping her knees bent.

If your toddler likes these exercises, turn to the next page for more fun activities to add to your workout!

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.