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Infants Not Forgotten When it Comes to Fitness

written by: Tania Faria • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/5/2011

How young is too young to be fit? There's no such thing. Even infants can and should join in the fun to develop a fit and healthy lifestyle and become fit for life.

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    Exercise Not just for Adults Anymore

    When people think of fitness activities, they think of gyms, pilate’s classes and weight training. Exercise seems to be an activity reserved for those old enough to maintain balance and structure in their every day lives. Infants need as much if not more physical activity to learn, grow and build the muscles they need to stay healthy.

    In the earliest stages of life when the infant is not sleeping they should be placed to play in areas that do not restrict movement. With supervision, the infant can be placed on the floor while they develop the skills and muscles associated with rolling over, sitting up and even crawling. Each of these activities require a great deal of muscle that must be developed similar to any adult weight training regiment. Infants should have unstructured active play time every day.

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    At the Youngest Stages, Play is the Best Exercise

    While not structured, infants should be getting a fair amount of exercise per day. This should be encouraged by the parents but they should remember that when an infant wants to sleep, they probably should be sleeping. Infants between 0 and twenty four months should have exploratory play. If the parent has an exercise routine it may help them to include the infant. Taking them for walks as part of the routine or simply having the infant in the same room as they workout. If the infant is kicking, the parent can even push against their feet to offer some resistance.

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    US Department of Health and Human Services, Infant Exercise Guidelines

    The US Department of Health and Human Services has outlined 5 guidelines for infant fitness. These guidelines are to help keep caregivers and parents educated while maintaining a safe environment for the children.

    Infants should interact with parents and/or caregivers in daily physical activities that are dedicated to promoting the exploration of their environment. Infants are by nature curious creatures. They do not know anything about their world and this is the first opportunity they have to really explore the world around them. Parents are encouraged to participate because infants will respond better to physical activity and develop a better attitude about physical activity if parents are actively involved.

    Infants should be placed in a safe setting that facilitates physical activity and does not restrict movement for prolonged periods of time. Playpens and swings are great, but they don’t promote a lot of movement. At the earliest stages of muscle development movement is one of the most important things an infant can do to remain strong.

    Infants' physical activity should promote the development of movement skills. Infant milestones are almost all physical; rolling over, sitting up, pushing up, crawling and eventually walking. These are important aspects of the child’s physical and mental growth. The infant will explore and attempt to understand things around them at this stage, so they should not be discouraged from movement.

    Infants should have an environment that meets or exceeds recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities. Part of the role of a parent is to keep the child safe while allowing them to explore and develop.

    Lastly, individuals responsible for the well-being of infants should be aware of the importance of physical activity and facilitate the child's motor skills. Education is so important for the parents and care givers. Education on fitness, exercise that’s appropriate for the age group and nutrition all will help the infant grow with a healthy understanding and love of a healthy lifestyle.

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