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by Helene Byrne


    The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has just released surprising results from a new study that measured the health benefits of fitness walking with your baby in a stroller. Research concludes that the intensity of the activity is almost double than previously assumed and meets current health guidelines.

    This is great news for new moms because stroller walking is an easy and economical way for new moms to fit exercise into their daily routines.

    Funded by ACE, researchers at the University of Wisconsin enrolled in the study 15 physically active women, ages 19 to 41. To establish a fitness baseline, all of the women were given a maximal treadmill exercise test that measured their oxygen use, heart rate, and levels of perceived exertion. The women were then given two additional exercise test sessions while pushing a stroller.

    During the first stroller workout, the women walked on a treadmill at 3mph for 20 minutes, with the strollers weighted to 35 pounds (to mimic a one-year-old baby and diaper bag).  Every four minutes the incline was adjusted from flat, to 2.5 percent, to 5 percent, and to a 7.5 perfect grade. The second test session used the same protocol, but at the increased speed of 3.5mph. Participants’ heart rates, oxygen use, and rate of perceived exertion were measured throughout both tests.

    While it came as no surprise that walking with a stroller burned more calories than walking alone, or that an increase in the speed and/or incline upped the work load, what surprised researchers was the extent of the difference. They discovered that walking with a stroller burned approximately 18 to 20 percent more calories than fitness walking alone. At that rate, the average woman would burn 375-440 calories per hour — an intensity rate of 4 to 5 METS — which is equivalent to riding a bicycle at 10mph. (MET values are used to gauge exercise intensity and allow for comparison of different types of activities). Previous estimates, as sited by The Compendium of Physical Activity, gauged walking with a stroller at only 2.5 METS, or about half the intensity that the current study documented.

    To maintain or improve health, it’s recommended that people perform regular aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity level, and this study confirms that fitness walking with your baby in a stroller meets those goals.

    Stroller-based group exercise programs which incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into their workouts can provide even greater health benefits. Given the new mother’s hectic lifestyle, stroller fitness walking is an easy and economical way to improve health, lose weight, have fun, and connect with other new moms at the same time. Now that’s multi-tasking!

HELENE BYRNE is founder of BeFit-Mom (www.befitmom.com), author of the award winning DVD, “Bounce Back Fast! Post Natal Core Conditioning”, and the book, “Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best”.

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