Exercise with a Toddler

Toddler playing at a playground

Running around after your energetic toddler might seem like enough exercise, but you still need focused activity for full fitness. Exercising with your toddler can benefit you both.

There are several good reasons to exercise with your young child. First, you need the exercise for stamina, fitness, and stress relief. Second, your child needs it as a way to deal with all of the energy that comes with the new-found freedom of walking and running. Finally, you are creating habits for life. Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that children need at least 90 minutes per day of activity, and adults need at least 30 minutes of activity a day, including muscle strengthening. We all need to get active to stay healthy.

Make deliberate exercise a part of your child’s routine every day, and activity will become part of the fabric of your child’s life. You are creating patterns of health and fitness both through your child’s experience and through the behavior you model.

Exercising with a toddler differs from exercising with a baby. Your toddler can stand, so your activities can be separate. Your toddler can drift away, so you need to make the activities interesting enough to keep a busy little person’s attention. Your toddler has begun to develop personal preferences, so you need to tailor activities to each child.

Tips for Toddler Exercises

  • Make it developmentally appropriate. Don’t rely on memorizing anything, and be prepared to be silly.
  • Keep it short. A very young child probably won’t stay interested longer than 10-15 minutes, so you might want to do your own warm up and cool down alone and the vigorous exercise together.
  • Alternate bursts of activity with quieter periods. Yoga can be a great tool to help a busy toddler slow down, but some will get bored and resistant if you spend too much time on one slow activity. Try a slow-paced stretching activity or visualization exercise after a tiring activity.
  • Keep it interesting. Don’t do the same routine every day. Show up with surprises to keep attention and vary the activity.
  • Keep it playful. Don’t make this like work for your child. Everything is play for a very young child. Turn on the music and dance. Make it fun.

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Exercising with Baby

Mother exercising and kissing baby

Whether you are working to rediscover your lost flat abs or you just want to build enough stamina to run after your child by the time your child can run, exercising with baby sets a good pattern that prioritizes your health even when so much of your time is spent focusing on the care of others.

I found that it was difficult to do anything without my first baby participating. I remember all too well putting my months-old daughter in a bouncy seat outside the shower while she yelled at me, me saying, “Please baby please baby please baby, let me shower.”

If your baby doesn’t want to be separated from you, you can find a way to exercise and entertain at the same time.

What is your goal? Decide first what you want out of your exercise program. Do you want to lose weight, tighten up, or just build endurance? Determine your goal, then find a path forward that will keep your baby engaged and entertained. That might mean your baby sits on you while you do butt raises or you adjust your squats to include a kiss on the top of your baby’s head. Whether you are touching or just interacting, your baby will enjoy the exercises if you keep her involved.

Keep focused. My favorite source to find exercises is the Exercise Finder at Divine.ca. You start by targeting specific areas on your body, then you are given a list with line drawings and clear descriptions. Some of these could easily be adapted to include your baby.

Find company. Better yet, you may also want the company of other new mothers. Look for a mother and baby exercise class in your area. If your baby is less than one year old, don’t sign up for the toddler class, though. Exercising with toddlers is another matter entirely—one I will write about next week.

You need the workout, and your baby needs you. Everyone can get what they want and need with a little clever planning.


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