Exercise is commonly known as an essential part of our physical health. Exercising helps us become stronger, fitter, and more likely to have self-confidence. We all know that it benefits our cardiovascular and respiratory system which can prolong our life.
But what about babies? Is exercise for babies really important? If they need to have some light exercises, what types of physical activities can parents perform for their infants? Today, we will discuss the answers to these questions.
Importance of Simple and Light Exercises for Babies
According to the recommendation of the Society of Health and Physical Educators, physical activities are significant for infants and all children up to 5 years old to help their bodies become strong, develop their muscles and bones, and strengthen their body coordination.
For babies, some light exercises can help strengthen their necks, help their hand-eye coordination, support their immune system and their overall body development. If they don’t get necessary exercises early, they will likely have a long time progressing in their physical growth.
Still, you don’t need to perform complex routines because energetic babies have their own ways in making their bodies move naturally such as crawling, or standing up. Simple ways like rolling on the mat, kicking their legs up in the air while lying on the floor, waddling their arms around when you play with them, and many more, can stimulate their muscles and bones.
List of Fun Physical Activities for Infants
Before you perform these activities for your baby, remember to be gentle as much as possible. Hold your baby gently but firmly, giving him or her enough support especially around the neck and head area. Take note that poor muscle tone is similar with poor coordination.
In this section, we will provide you with some useful tips for you to help your little one have fun with physical activities for their body and brain development based on some reliable books and references we gathered:
- Leg and tummy development at 2-3 months – Lift your baby’s legs by lifting his or her buttocks. Your baby will flex the legs upward; lower him and the legs will straighten. This strengthens the tummy muscles for later movements.
- Gently rock your baby on his back from side to side. You will notice that his or her head is moving accordingly. Do not turn him more than 45 degrees. Doing this method stimulates the organs for muscle tone and balance, as well as strengthening neck muscles for head control.
- Gentle turnovers – When your baby is lying on his back, turn him or her gently by bending one leg up while his or her arm on the same side will swing over across his chest, then gently push the leg by the bent knee over and across the body. You will see that your baby will lift his or her neck slightly as this will strengthen the neck muscles. Turn him in this way, from back to front and back again slowly, several times. Don’t forget to place your hand gently under your baby’s head for support.
- Arm movements – Great for 1-month old babies, try to slowly move your baby’s arms up and down together and alternately in and out.
- Performing pushways with baby on his back – To activate the reflex stretch of one leg and the other, use the palms of your hand or a rolled cloth as you press against the foot with a gentle force, to make him/her push your hand away.
- For 3-6 months, infants can now move freely by squirming around on the floor. When they perform repetitive movements on the floor, this will stimulate the neurons in the brain to interconnect. Try to use some rattles for your baby to stimulate his or her body.
- Pull ups – This will strengthen your baby’s neck, back, and shoulder muscles. Support the head if you noticed any head lag. While your baby is lying on your legs, gently pull him up to a sitting position.
Performing the aforementioned ways and methods of light exercises for your little one is vital as doing this will strengthen the neck and back muscles and also stimulate his or her spatial awareness and visual adjustment. These activities are practical and still applicable as your baby grows older. Based on your baby’s own physical ability and on his or her age, frequency and increased duration can be possible as you tune to his or her personal needs.