December 03, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
ACE, the American Council on Exercise, 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 everywhere.” says exercise specialist Helene Byrne, author of Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best. “Stroller walking is an easy and economical way for new moms to fit exercise into their daily routines, and now we know that it provides significant health benefits.”

Funded by ACE, researchers at the University of Wisconsin enrolled 15 physically active women, ages 19 to 41 into the study. To establish a fitness baseline, all of the women were given a maximal exercise test on a treadmill that measured their oxygen usage, 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, women walked on a treadmill at 3 mph 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%, to 5%, and to 7.5% grade. The second test session used the same protocol but at the increased speed of 3.5 mph. Participants heart rates, oxygen usage, 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% more calories than fitness walking alone. At that rate, the average woman would burn about 375 to 440 calories per hour—an intensity rate of 4 to 5 METS—which is equivalent to riding a bicycle at 10 mph. (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.

“All new moms want to lose their extra baby weight as soon as possible,” says Byrne, “and stroller fitness walking offers a terrific way to burn calories and get back in shape. And just as importantly, because it’s so easy, it helps new mothers establish the habit of physical activity into their busy lifestyles.”

Stroller based group exercise programs like Baby Boot Camp or Stroller Strides, 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!