It’s impossible to count how many times we stoop down and stand-up while tending to our little ones. Regular lower-body exercise increases bone strength, improves your balance and stamina, and decreases injuries to your knees and hips, along with your risk of falling. Try out the following exercises while you stroll with your kiddos outside, play on the floor, or simply while standing around the house with your baby snuggled in your arms. (Tip: You can substitute free weights or a gallon jug of water if your kids are too big for these.)
Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise regime. These exercises should not be performed on a daily basis. It is recommended to give the muscles a day of rest. 30 minutes of cardio is acceptable every day. Always hold in your belly to protect the lower back and exhale on the “work,” for example, when you lift and feel the excursion of the exercise.
Calf Raises (with babies in hand):
I do this one while waiting in line at the grocery store. Shoot, get the exercise in whenever you can!
1. Start with feet shoulder width apart and hold a baby in your arms. (toes facing forward)
2. Engage your belly for balance (ie: Pull in your tummy and tilt your pelvis slightly forward to protect the lower back).
3. Rise up onto the balls of your toes lifting the heels – repeat 8 times, stay up at the top and pulse for 4, repeat 3x
4. Turn your toes out to the corners and repeat the sequence.
5. Turn your toes in and repeat the sequence.
Lunges with stroller
I do these up and down the sidewalk in our neighborhood or at a nearby parking lot. It’s helpful to set a goal and then go for it. For example – “I’m going to lunge to that stop sign!”
Be sure to step far enough in front that your knee is over your ankle and not your toe, otherwise you will be putting weight directly into your knee and not into the working quadriceps and hamstrings.
1. Place hands onto the stroller. (Try not to leverage your weight into your hands. Remember, we want the working muscles to be the legs, not the arms).
2. Take a big step forward moving into a lunge position. (Make sure your knee is not going over the toe). The lower the opposite knee drops to the ground, the harder the work.
Try adding on these 2 variations to shake things up:
1. Lift knee as you rise up out of the lunge.
2. Lift the back leg behind you as you rise up out of the lunge.
Set a minimum goal of lunges and build as you become stronger. For example, begin with total 10 lunges, then the next time you exercise try 20, then eventually you will surprise yourself doing 50-100 lunges at a time! Burn, baby, burn!
Inner Thigh Dips – baby in arms:
1. Open your legs a little wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointing outward. Pull in your tummy and slightly tilt your pelvis forward to line your tailbone with the spine. This will protect the lower back.
2. While holding your baby, lower down into a plie squat with the knees pointing out over the toes. Knees should not go over the toes. If they do, open your legs a little wider. Squeeze your bootie and contract the inner-thigh muscles as you lift up to standing.
1. Lower down 2 counts, up 2 counts, 8 times.
2. Lower down and pulse for 8 counts, lift up, repeat 4 times.
3. Finish lowering down 2 counts, up 2 counts, 8 times.
*shake things up by lifting one heel at a time.
Outer Hip Series – 3 exercises (Lying on side):
Place your baby on a blanket in front of you.
Starting Position: On the floor, lie on your side facing your baby. You can dangle toys and play peekaboo while burning out your bottom half. With legs still on the floor, pike your legs at a 45 degree angle and stack your legs and hips on top of each other. Keep your belly pulled in for balance and lower back support. Try one or all of the three exercises described below:
– Begin with the starting position described above: Lift the top leg up a little higher than shoulder height and lower down. Foot is flexed. (up 2 counts, down 2 counts)
– Begin with the starting position described above: Lift the top leg slightly higher than hip height and point the toe. Begin making 8 small circles with your leg towards the front, then 8 small circles towards the back. Next, make 4 giant circles with your leg towards the front and 4 giant circles towards the back. Exhale as your rotate the leg.
– Begin with the starting position described above: With the top leg, point the toe to the floor in front of you. Then rotate your hip, lift your leg, and touch the heel of that same foot to the floor behind you, creating a rainbow-shaped movement. Repeat 8 times for two reps.
Bridge (bootie toner) – baby sits on top of your hips:
Try one or all of the three exercises described below:
Lie down on the floor with both feet flat on the floor. Place your baby on your hips. Hold your baby under their arms to stabilize them. Be sure to hold your tummy in to protect the lower back. Lift your pelvis off the floor as you exhale, inhale, and lower your baby to the floor. (Be sure to squeeze your bootie as you lift). Squeal with your baby as they lift up and lower down. They will enjoy their first roller-coaster ride! Lift up and down 8 times. Repeat 3 total sets.
Advanced: Lift and extend one leg off the floor and repeat the lifting and lowering of the hips – 4-8 times each leg
Bonus: Place both feet flat on the floor. Lift your baby up and tap your knees together 4-times, then lower to the floor (repeat 8 times)
Quad Lifts (baby sits on quad):
You may do this exercise with your back against a wall or a couch. For additional core work, try the exercise while sitting up leaning slightly backwards and engage your abs.
Extend both legs out onto the floor in front of you. Sit your baby on the left quadriceps and lift the leg up, pull the knee into your chest, extend the leg out, and lower down. (Give your baby a kiss as you pull him or her into you!)
Repeat 2 sets of eight. Switch to other leg (and bring in the other baby!)
Julianna Canfield has been a certified group exercise instructor for over thirteen years. She lives with her husband Matthew and their 5-month old identical twins Parker Raymond and Gregory Allen in Tega Cay, South Carolina. Julianna is the Director of Fitness at the YWCA Central Carolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina.