Regardless of whether you have a newborn or a toddler, lugging around a small child can certainly feel like a workout. Parents who are always pressed for time sometimes playfully claim they don’t need a gym when they’re continuously lifting, setting down, and transporting their little ones. But are you truly squeezing in some fitness during these moments? According to the professionals, the answer is, “Absolutely!”
Jimmy Pajuheshfar, DPT, the head clinician at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers Whitney Ranch, is a father of three: a 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and a newborn. And he understands that he’s engaging in his fitness focused on toddlers and beyond just through his everyday life.
“Holding a baby is a full-body workout,” he remarks. “Numerous parts of the body are involved in effectively lifting and carrying your baby throughout the day.”
Dr. Pajuheshfar explains that simple common daily parenting activities—such as picking up a baby from the crib or a car seat, and bringing them in your arms from one place to another—engage key muscle groups. The muscles in our legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes); the core (transverse abdominis, rectus abdominus, obliques); the mid and low back (quadratus lumborum, rhomboids); and the pulling muscles of the arms (biceps) are all activated while holding and transporting your baby. And any parent knows those muscles face an additional challenge when their little one starts to become restless.
“Holding a baby is a full-body workout.” —Jimmy Pajuheshfar, DPT
“Believe it or not, carrying a baby can also qualify as both a strength and a cardio workout!” Dr. Pajuheshfar mentions. “Short-duration tasks such as lifting a baby from the floor, crib, or car seat are more strength-based. Longer activities such as carrying the extra weight a baby provides on your body while wearing a baby carrier or in your arms will more likely incorporate training of your cardiovascular endurance and stamina.”
Enhancing the Baby Fitness Advantages
In the long run, Dr. Pajuheshfar states that this phase of carrying a young child can significantly enhance your stamina, endurance, and overall body strength when done safely—and those benefits will be useful as your child grows bigger and heavier. If you want to amplify the advantages even more, there are ways to take advantage of this parenting benefit and incorporate a more deliberate workout into your baby carrying.
“To add some fun, you can utilize your baby as an additional weight with exercises such as squats, lunges, crunches, trunk twists, and overhead presses to strengthen all areas of your body,” Dr. Pajuheshfar suggests. But for any baby-and-me fitness, he advises to make sure you move your little one in a slow and gentle manner. And early on, always obtain clearance first from your healthcare provider that you have the green light for more physically strenuous postpartum activity.
Necessary Safety Guidelines to Prevent Injury
While the fitness benefits of lifting and carrying children are present, there is also the risk of enduring long-term back injuries or sore muscles if you’re not cautious about how you carry your little one. Dr. Pajuheshfar states that the most common injuries are muscle strains. To lessen your likelihood of getting hurt, he recommends these suggestions:
- Utilize your legs when bending forward to pick up from or place your baby in a crib.
- Be deliberate about switching your baby from the left to the right side of your body when carrying to avoid overusing one side and risking injury to your back.
- Keep your baby close to your body when lifting and carrying them. “Think about it this way—can you hold a bowling ball longer if it is held close to your body or with your arms outstretched?” Dr. Pajuheshfar inquires. “The same concept applies to your baby.”