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Benefits of infant exercise

We all know that exercise is good for adults and children, but what about infants?

The British government has issued a new set of guidelines to parents to fight childhood obesity. They recommend children, 5 and under, should be engaged in at least three hours of exercise daily, and this includes infants.

So, is it time to get your newborn involved in a workout program?

While there are no specific recommendations in United States, America Now went to a gym specifically designed for the little ones to get infant exercise advice from the experts.

When you see a chubby baby, most of us react by commenting on how cute they are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate for this group is about 17 percent leading some to wonder if baby workouts should start even before the little ones learn to take their first step.

Pediatricians say babies should do the same crunches, arm circles and choreographed calisthenics adults do.

"Parents should think about obesity or childhood obesity from early infancy," says Dr. Rhonda Patt, a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic.

Studies have linked the extra pounds children have when they are little to health problems which occur later in life.

"Anything you can do to make them better in this world, why would you not do it?" asks Brooke Vanderspuy whose daughter, Lyla, is 4 months old.

You need to do about three hours of active exercise each day with your baby according to the tot trainers at The Little Gym.

Here, it's not about building brawn. Rather, it's about building a solid base, and preventing future bad habits.  

"Doing flips and twists and turns gives their body a workout from the inside out," says Kim Kusika, an infant trainer at The Little Gym.

She says it helps children to develop "...their core, their equilibrium their vestibular sense, all those odd things we don't think about looking from the outside at our babies."

Reaching for rings or even bubbles strengthen their arms and hand-eye coordination.  

Gentle bouncing, balancing, and somersaulting on a soft surface gets their little muscles in shape.

Flipping them upside down, exercises the ear and helps to condition them against developing car sickness.

"The biggest impact is what parents do at home," according to Dr. Patt.

The best exercise for your baby is laying them on their belly. The time spent on their tummy is a workout for their neck, and is the first step towards a crawl and a push up. The more supervised time on their belly, the better.

"We've seen an increase in the number of babies having flatness on the back of their head," Patt said.

Many experts we spoke to agree that parents should get the ball rolling by getting their baby moving.

Parents participating in the workout program say infant exercise strengthens their child's bones and also builds a stronger bond between the parent and their child.

These exercises also work out the most important muscle we all have, our heart.

Just remember to always stay by their side to keep them safe and comfortable. The most important thing to know is that keeping your baby in shape should never feel like a workout to them - it should just feel fun.

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