Yes. The fitness revolution has yet to filter down to children. Programs such as BabyCise are steps in the right direction.
America's children are in terrible shape. The President's Council on Physical Fitnss and Sports found half lack the flexibility to touch their toes and most can't run a 10-minute mile. As I've seen in my private practice, many have elevated serum cholesterol and blood pressure.
BabyCise stresses parent-child interaction, not merely exercise. While a regimented program for small children may be unnecessary, one that promotes "TLC" -- touching, learning and communicating, along with lots of hugs -- can certainly be an asset. The parent's role is to encourage and praise, not train and drill.
Children should benefit psychologically and socially. If they gain a sense of balance and improved muscle tone, that's a happy dividend.
Our videotape and new book with audiotape show "exercises" going from the infant's first day at home to 18 months. Some were extrapolated from physical therapy. We know they build handicapped children's strength, flexibility and coordination. A study is under way to see whether they have a similar effect on other children.
I expect it will find parents spending more quality time with infants. Praise of physical achievements should boost babies' self-esteem and pleasure in using their bodies.
A stress-management consultant has said everyone needs four hugs a day to satisfy skin hunger -- and for a great day, a dozen. My hope is that BabyCise will create great days for many families. -- Dr. Stuart Copperman assistant professor of pediatrics, State University of New York at Stony Brook; author of "Matchbox Toys' BabyCise."
No. I don't know of any scientific evidence that toddlers' exercise programs enhance development.I think their intent is good, but what they promise and the structured way they go about it is probably a mistake. BabyCise ads say, "The exercises stimulate the development of baby's muscle tone, motor skills and coordination. BabyCise helps build little bodies, and that can help build big self-confidence."
That's a pretty hard sell. Parents are likely to think the programs foster "superbabies" who will pass developmental milestones sooner. There's no proof that this happens.
I'm afraid the programs give parents the idea they must do something specific to make their children develop normally and become athletic.
And doing such exercises too vigorously can injure a child. I've seen a baby whose arm was broken in an infant exercise class.
I also feel the programs exploit the terrible guilt working parents have that they're missing out on "quality time" with their youngsters. In trying to ease this, they may increase anxiety.
I'd tell parents, "Relax, you were a child. You've been around children. You don't need any special exercises. All you have to do is play with your baby, look at him, talk to him and respond to his needs."
Anyone who has tried to follow a toddler around would probably roll on the floor laughing at the idea of an exercise program for young children. A toddler can wear out a fit adult in half a day.
Between leaving a child in his crib and putting him through a highly programed series of exercises, there's a vast middle ground in which most babies do quite well. -- Dr. George Stone clinical professor of pediatrics, Tulane; chairman, Committee on Early Childhood, American Academy of Pediatrics.