I turned to my Fitbit, an electronic activity tracker wristband, to find out. Not long after I became a father, the device recorded that I burned more than 100 calories during one 30-minute bouncy sleep session.
For dads who don’t have time to hit the gym but need to shed some pounds (gained in, um, sympathy, while the missus was expecting), the best way to stay relatively fit is to make the child part of the action, says Joshua Levitt, a naturopathic physician and the author of “Baby Barbells: The Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering.”
In the book, the father of three offers techniques to target muscles while handling a tot. Who needs weights when you can squat with 10 to 20 pounds of baby fat for resistance? (After all, moms can’t do all of the heavy lifting.)
There are similar tips for buffing up with your offspring in Jon Finkel’s “The Dadvantage: Stay in Shape With No Sleep, No Time and No Equipment.” But the bottom line is that any parenting activity that requires picking up a kid is a strength-building session.
“They become giant weight balls,” says Finkel, a father of two. “It’s like you take a 15-pound dumbbell and hold it around for 30 minutes.”
Finkel says dads should embrace their new reality and get creative with exercise — think newfound activities like “car seat curls” when lugging the baby on errands.
But fathers had better learn the proper way to lift or carry the baby, or they risk back or hip injury, notes Mike Everts, owner of FIT, a personal training center near Dupont Circle.
“It teaches you the importance of improving your mechanics,” says Everts, who has two young children. “Our first impulse when reaching to lift our baby off of a bed, floor, crib, changing table or stroller is to bend over and pick the baby up. This can place a lot of tension on the shoulders and lower back.” (See box below for Everts’ advice.)
While your baby is working on developing his or her muscles, you can pay attention to yours, too. One of Finkel’s top suggestions is finding time for pushups, as I’ve done during my daughter’s tummy time. It also puts me at the baby’s eye level, giving her something fun to look at.
After months of carrying around our little chunk, I can vouch that as long as you take care of your baby, he or she will help take care of you.
“Babies love movement,” Levitt says. “Take advantage of that.”
Be a Dynamic Duo
Here are fun options for daddy-baby fitness activities:
Make a splash: The District Department of Parks and Recreation (dpr.dc.gov/service/aquatics-division) offers parent-child lessons for kids as young as 6 months old at several aquatic centers throughout the city, and the area’s suburbs run similar programs.
Take a hike: Both my wife and I wear our daughter in a wrap regularly — she’s napped through outings to shopping malls and trails. Great Falls and Rock Creek Park are just two great places to tote a baby carrier.
Bust a move: Boogie Babes (boogiebabes.com) invites parents and kids to dance to kiddie-friendly tunes. The concerts are at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays (at Union Market), Thursdays (Eastern Market) and Fridays (Atlas Performing Arts Center). It’s $5 per child to attend.
How to Lift a Baby
Local trainer and father Mike Everts says picking up a baby the wrong way could hurt you and your kid. Not sure you’re doing it right? Everts offers a few pointers: “If your baby is on the floor, it is best to use the half-kneel technique. While close to your child, place one foot in front of the other, and bend at your hips and knees to descend yourself onto one knee. Once at floor level, lift your child with both hands (supporting his head and body) and hold him close to your body. Engage your midsection, push with your legs, and return to standing. If the baby is in a crib or a bed, it is best to get as close to the baby as possible by sliding her closer to you before picking her up. If she is in a low bed, descend to one knee, lift and bring your baby close to you, and then return to standing.”