Fact #1: We all know we should prioritize our health.
Fact #2: Accomplishing Fact #1 in real life is HARD. There are a million and one reasons why, but we all run into it at some point.
One of our goals at BWI is to promote babywearing as a useful tool for every caregiver, something that can help you accomplish your goals and make the day-to-day way of life you want for yourself and your family a reality.
If one of your goals is to make time for physical exercise, particularly strength exercises that can help improve posture, strengthen muscle, and maintain bone mass, then this post is for you!
Amanda Berger, a BWI of STL volunteer and certified personal trainer, is here to give us an overview of ways to safely exercise while wearing, and to walk us through some specific strength exercises that can be done while babywearing!
The most important thing to remember is that wearing a child changes your center of gravity. This and the fact that you are adding weight to your frame can make it harder to keep your balance. For your safety and the safety of your little one, you should practice all exercises without wearing before you add wearing to the equation. You should also make sure you are comfortable with wearing and how it makes your balance feel before adding exercises.
The best way to start is walking. Often clients are skeptical when I suggest taking daily walks. I get the question “how can I possibly reach my goals with just a walk?” The point is to start somewhere. One walk may not seem like a huge amount of exercise but if you do that walk everyday it adds up. You are also carrying an extra 10-30lbs depending on the size of your child. If you can’t walk outside, marching in place is a great alternative. This is also a way to accomplish two things at once: Put on some Netflix and walk through that nap baby decided to take on you.
Take It Up A Notch
Once you are comfortable with walking and ready to add some more strenuous cardio, try walking up stairs (if you have them). Be very careful and go slow; slow and safe is better than fast and hurt. Use the railing and pick your feet up high. Remember when wearing in a front carry you cannot see your feet. This is one I sneak into daily things instead of doing all at once so I reduce fatigue and possible falling. If I have a pile of things to go upstairs in my kitchen, I pick up one, walk upstairs and put it away then come back down for the next item. Taking them one at a time meant I went up and down multiple times but also that I got a few minutes’ break between climbs.
Add Some Resistance
I have compiled some resistance exercises that can be done while wearing. These exercises are based on high repetitions and low weight (body weight plus child weight). I recommend starting with 10 repetitions for 2-3 sets and building up from there. But listen to your body. If you need to stop then stop.
*a set in this instance would be 10 repetitions and then a break followed by 10 more repetitions*
*****Please remember that you need to be cleared by your health professional to work out and should be a minimum of 6 weeks post partem before you start exercising. Also make sure you are wearing your child appropriately for their age/development and according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. I do not recommend wearing facing out during these exercises due to the fact it causes the wearer to lean back farther and changes center of gravity in a different way than when the child is facing in, both of these factors can make it harder to balance and can cause injury to the wearer and/or the child. *****
Squats – Squats can be done while the child is being worn on the front or the back.
Due to weight distributions on the front can be harder so you may not be able to go down as far. That is ok, you are still getting a great workout. I recommend standing next to a wall, table or chair so that you can use it for balance if needed. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward. Sit your hips back like you are going to sit down then push back to a standing position.
Lunges – Lunges can be done with the child being worn on the front or the back.
I highly recommend using a wall the entire time you do this exercise. Stand with one foot in front and the other back as far as comfortable. Front foot is flat and back foot is on its toe. Drop the back knee down then push back up. The front knee should not cross your front toe, this is a downward motion so front knee should stay at a 90 degree angle
Sit downs – This exercise is for front wearing.
This is great if you have balance issues while doing squats, use a chair with arms to hold onto, if you do not have a chair with arms do this next to a table. Using a chair without arms or not using a table to help stand back up, makes this an advanced exercise. Stand in front of chair and sit down then stand up (use arms of chair if needed). To make this harder as you progress don’t fully sit down, just lightly tap the seat. This exercise may be harder to do if you are using a soft structured carrier (ergo, tula, etc) because these are designed to sit lower and distribute weight onto your hips. If using this type of carrier and you find it restricts your range of motion then this might not be the best exercise for you to do while wearing.
Calf-raises – Calf-raises can be done wearing child in front or back.
Stand next to a wall for balance. Feet shoulder width apart, toes forward, knees slightly bent (not locked). Raise up onto your toes than go back town. On your last rep of a set go up and hold for 10 seconds to make this exercise harder.
Wall push ups – This exercise is for back wearing only.
**This is an ADVANCED exercise, do a lot of practice before doing while wearing**
Stand infront of wall with hands on wall at shoulder height and width. Go up on toes and bend elbows to bring yourself into a “push-up” position against the wall, bringing your nose to almost touching. The farther your feet are from the wall the harder the exercise will be. Same for how low you go, some people demonstrate this with hands on a table instead of a wall. That is MUCH harder and should not be done while wearing until you can do multiple sets this way without wearing a child.
The next four exercises can be done with weights. You can do them without weights but should do closer to 20-30 repetitions. If you do not have dumbbells you can use anything you have. I am demonstrating with water bottles. Cans of soup, boxes of pasta, heavy toys, or shoes can also be used.
**I do not recommend any exercises that take weights over the child’s head or wearer’s head. I do not have any demonstrated here. If you do those types of exercises, do them without the weights.***
Bicep curls – This exercise can be done with child worn on front or back.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Palms facing forward and arms at your sides. Raise your hands up towards your upper arm, keeping your bent elbow down and at your side. Slowly lower hand back down to start position. Do not swing arms.
Side arm lifts – This exercise can be done with child worn on the front or back.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Palms facing in towards your body with your arms at your sides. Slowly raise arms up to the sides to shoulder height (not higher) and palms are facing down. Then slowly lower back to start position
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Arms at your sides and palms facing back. Push your arms back behind you while keeping arms straight. Try to stand straight and not lean forward while completing the exercise.
Tricep Dips – This exercise is for front wearing only.
**This is an ADVANCED exercise, do not attempt to do this exercise while wearing before you can completely do it without wearing.**
Sit on edge of chair/bench, hands at your sides and feet out in front of you and shoulder width apart. The closer your feet are to your body the easier the exercise. Move your hips off the bench then slowly lower down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle then lift your body back up.
Please remember that safety is more important than a workout. Only do what you feel comfortable doing and listen to your body. If you have any comments or questions please ask!
B.S in Exercise Health, ACSM Personal Trainer, Spinning Instructor and AFAA Group Fitness Instructor