Safety First When Exercising With Your Little One
A great way to expose children to exercise is to take them along when you run, walk, bike, or hike. Kids will enjoy the fresh air and learn early on that exercise is fun and an essential part of a healthful lifestyle. But, there are a few extra things to consider when bringing the little one along for a ride.
The main types of child carriers used in exercise are: running strollers, bike seats or trailers, and backpacks. Regardless of the type of carrier used, there are several factors to consider to ensure a fun outing for both you and your child:
- Keep a moderate pace.
- Be especially aware of your surroundings.
- Watch out for dangerous terrain.
- Dress your child for the elements.
- Never leave your child unattended.
- Use safety harnesses.
- Don’t exceed the weight limit of your carrier.
Look for a sturdy and stable stroller that will not tip on turns. It should also have:
- A locking brake
- A secure handle that will not become slippery from sweat
- A safety wrist strap, which will prevent the stroller from getting away from you
Bring your baby with you to try the stroller out for size. It should have a deep seat and a secure seat belt. Wait until an infant is at least 6 months of age before placing them in a running stroller. You may want to wait until the baby is 12 months so that a bicycle helmet may be used to offer extra protection. Another way to prevent excess jostling of your baby's head are to run on a smooth surface.
On your run
Remember that the stroller is wider than you. Allow more room between yourself and traffic, and be on the lookout for hazards such as open car doors. Never, never let go of the stroller or safety wrist strap, it can easily get away from you.
Adding a child seat makes a bike unstable; this extra weight can shift unpredictably while you ride. Experts recommend that only very skilled cyclists carry a child on their bike, and that the child must be at least one year old and able to hold his head up.
There are two options for bike seats: front mounted and rear mounted. Each has its pros and cons, and there is no clear consensus on which is safest.
Rear-mounted bike seats
Many cyclists feel safer with their children behind them on the bike. Also, rear-mounted seats can be larger than those mounted in front and can have higher backs with greater support. However, when you need to pedal hard on an uphill, your child's head can get whipped from side to side. Another concern is that the extra weight on the back can cause the bike to tip over when you come to a full stop or when you're getting on or off the bike.
Front-mounted bike seats
Having your child right in front of you allows you to talk to him or her while you ride. But, this also puts the child in the direct path of a head-on collision and can make steering awkward and difficult.
A bike trailer is an enclosed seat that is towed behind the bike. It allows the child to be separate from the bike and at less risk of harm if the bike crashes or falls. A trailer also avoids the problem of top-heaviness, which occurs with some bike seats. While it may be safer on some accounts, the bike trailer can be difficult to maneuver because of the extra length it adds to your bike. In addition, the ride can be rough and you can't communicate with your child while riding.
General Bike Safety
Most authorities agree that infants less than 12 months of age should not be passengers on bicycles. For infants older than 12 months and children, follow these safety tips:
- Both you and your child must wear a helmet. A helmet should fit snugly and offer good padding.
- Mount a small mirror on your helmet to increase visibility.
- Attach a high-flying fluorescent flag to your bike or to the trailer so others can see you.
- Be sure that child seats have spoke guards, safety belts, and adequate padding.
- Avoid blankets or loose clothing that can get caught in the spokes or other parts of the bike.
- Have the bike seat fitted to your bike. Do not use it on other bikes without having it properly fitted.
- Choose routes with little traffic. A paved bike path is ideal.
Whether you are heading out for a hike or just strolling around town, backpacks are a great hands-free option for bringing your child along. Here are some things to look for when shopping for a baby carrier:
- Firm, padded, adjustable head supports (especially important for younger babies)
- Secured seating that keeps the baby's back, trunk, and head upright
- Adjustable safety straps
- Correct fit for you, including padded shoulder straps and a waist belt to reduce stress on the lower back
- Built-in stands to make it easier to get the backpack on and off, especially with metal-framed carriers
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when using your backpack:
Know that the backpack may affect your balance, and do the following to compensate:
- Take smaller steps.
- Avoid rough, hard-to-see, or slick terrain.
- Don't walk too fast, especially when going downhill.
- Never use the backpack when doing activities in which a fall or moving equipment could harm the child, such as fly-fishing, lawn mowing, or skiing.
National Safe Kids Campaign
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Caring for Kids
Child carriers: tips for runners, bikers, and hikers. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Nov 1998.
EC Powell, RR Tanz. Tykes and bikes: Injuries associated with bicycle-towed child trailers and bicycle-mounted child seats. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000;154:351-353.
Last reviewed July 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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