Baby on Board: Jogging Strollers
Jogging strollers—those funky three-wheelers you see whizzing about with baby on board—are practically standard issue for moms and dads who want to stay active.
“I couldn't always get to the gym, but I was always able to get exercise with our Baby Jogger,” says Victoria, a mother of two daughters. She jogs with the stroller on weekdays and takes it to the beach or to trails at a nearby state park on the weekends. “The fresh air is great for all of us,” says Victoria.
Fresh air is only one of many benefits of hitting the road. During the postpartum period, exercise helps increase energy levels, while improving cholesterol levels, insulin response, and overall well-being.
With a minimal design that consists of metal tubing, canvas seats, and mini-bicycle-style wheels, they are lightweight and a breeze to push and maneuver. Originally designed to accommodate runners, jogging strollers are built with plenty of leg room, so they will not hinder your stride. Not feeling fleet of foot? Running is optional; walkers enjoy the ease-of-use just as much, though in-line skating is a no-no.
You can find joggers to accommodate one, two, or even three little ones. Most jogging strollers have a weight limit of about 75 pounds, which means you can bring your child along until about age four.
On the downside, jogging strollers are bigger than your average stroller, making them more cumbersome to store and transport. They're also pricey. Expect to pay $300 or more for a single model. Mini jogging-strollers are less expensive, but there are tradeoffs: small overall size and 12” wheels mean a bumpier ride and less room for baby.
Some stroller companies also offer less expensive three-wheelers, but they are not necessarily intended for jogging. Plastic materials and small wheels keep the price down, but they result in a less durable and less comfortable vehicle for pusher and passenger.
What to Look For
Not all jogging strollers are created equal. When choosing a jogging stroller, look for these features:
Look for a five-point safety harness.
Usually made of cordura nylon or canvas straps with plastic buckles, the harness secures your child around the shoulders and waist and between the legs.
Ask about extras. Sun canopies and carrying baskets, for example, aren't always included. Think about your climate, as well. A rain canopy offers wind and sun protection, too, and it may be worth the extra money to be able to go out in all kinds of weather.
Check the brakes.
A handbrake that works like those on a bicycle is generally standard. You squeeze the handle, and rubber grippers put pressure on the wheels to slow or stop. Because handbrakes are not always effective on inclines, an extra parking brake that stops the front wheel by engaging a sprocket can be nice, especially if you will be stopping along the way. Also, look for a stroller that comes with a run-away leash.
Test the handlebar height.
Look for a bar that meets at or just below your waist, and walk and run with it to make sure the height is comfortable. Consider a stroller with an adjustable handlebar, especially if you will be sharing the stroller with a partner who is taller or shorter.
Determine wheel size.
Most companies give you a choice of wheel sizes: 12, 16, and 20 inches. The bigger the wheel, the smoother baby's ride and the easier the stroller will be to push. If you'll be sticking to smooth pavement, 16-inch wheels are a good choice. Serious runners and trail walkers should opt for the big ones. They soak up bumps and travel well over all kinds of surfaces grass, gravel, sand, bark mulch, even snow. Just remember that bigger wheels add bulk and cost, too.
Alloy or steel?
You can often choose rim material. Alloy is lighter, but also more costly, and probably not necessary unless you are training seriously and going long distances where every ounce counts.
Put it together.
Assembly tools should raise your eyebrows as a sure sign that too much work is involved. The front wheel should have a quick-release mechanism so you don't have to unbolt it, and the back wheels should also come on and off with ease. Before you buy, ask the salesperson to take it apart and put it together for you. Then try it yourself, and remember you'll get quicker with practice.
Look for added value.
If you're into cycling, too, you might want to consider a convertible jogging stroller/bike trailer. Models with three large-size wheels work better for jogging than those that convert with a smaller front wheel.
Before you buy, take the stroller for a test drive. Borrow a stroller from a friend to try it out, or jog around the store to make sure the stroller is a good fit for you and for baby.
Before you hit the road, take a few simple precautions to make sure your precious cargo stays safe. Babies gain control of their head around six months of age. This is a good time to go for a spin. Very young passengers will appreciate reclining seats, and a rolled towel or car seat neck roll for head support. Use the tether, a simple strap to loop around your wrist, in case of a runaway stroller. As your child gets bigger, make sure little hands can't reach the wheels where they could get rubbed or snagged in the spokes.
Look for ASTM International certification to ensure that the stroller meets the most rigorous standard set by the jogging stroller industry. However, ASTM testing is not required by law, so not all manufacturers participate.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine
Anders M. Wellness on: new ACE
calorie burn and
body benefits of
walking with a
baby stroller. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/WellnessOnWheels.pdf. Updated November 2007. Accessed October 17, 2013.
ASTM F833-13a standard consumer safety performance specification for carriages and strollers. ASTM International website. Available at: http://www.astm.org/search/fullsite-search.html?query=jogging+stroller&toplevel=products-and-services&sublevel=sedl-digital-library. Accessed October 17, 2013.
Impact of physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum on chronic disease risk. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/publications/Impact%20of%20Physical%20Activity%20during%20Pregnancy%20and%20Postpartum%20on%20Chronic%20Disease%20Risk.pdf. Accessed October 17, 2013.
Jogging strollers. Pregnant Health website. Available at: http://www.pregnanthealth.com/jogging-strollers. Accessed October 17, 2013.