When Is It Safe to Start Jogging With a Baby? (And How to Do It Right)
Published May 24, 2023
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Running has always been my exercise of choice, so after I gave birth to my son, I was desperate to get back to it. But running alone is very different from running with a child in a jogging stroller. I ended up diving deep into research to figure out when it was safe to run with my son and talking with experts to understand how to begin this new era.
Luckily, it didn't take long for the two of us to learn to love our jogs together. I ran with my son nearly three times per week and throughout my first trimester of pregnancy with my second child (and again when she was old enough to ride along, as well). I also recently tested strollers for Wirecutter's guide to jogging strollers. Here's what you need to know about running with a child in tow.
This stroller is more pleasurable to push over pavement, and its light weight makes it easy to maneuver and convenient for day-to-day use.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $440.
Robust suspension and thick tire treads make this stroller ideal for off-road adventures. But it's heavier than our top pick and lacks a hand brake.
The Activ3 offers adjustable suspension and a fairly comfortable ride for a significantly lower price than our other picks. But the total weight limit is lower, and its storage basket is smaller.
Many jogging strollers have a minimum child weight of 5 pounds and allow you to click in a car seat. Some also come with an infant insert. But that doesn't mean that a newborn can join you on a 5K. (And if you’re the birthing parent, you should wait until you are medically cleared by your doctor to exercise, as well.)
It's fine to use a jogging stroller for walking with an infant, but babies should have full head and neck control before you strap them into a stroller for a run. Neck control coincides with a baby's ability to sit up on their own; that happens at 6 months for some little ones, but for others it's closer to 8 months (or even later). When babies can control their necks, they can handle faster movements such as turning, stopping, and accelerating without risking damage to their tiny developing spines or heads.
A more comfortable ride means a happier child, which allows you to go longer distances.
If you’re the birthing parent, practice walking with the stroller first, and then practice jogging with it in shorter increments. (My physical therapist suggested alternating one minute of running with one minute of walking.) As your stamina builds, you can consider running for longer distances and time spans.
Regular strollers lack certain features for running safety, such as a suspension system, durable bicycle-style tires, a locking front wheel, and, in many cases, a hand brake.
If you plan to run on bumpier terrain, especially off-road, choose a stroller with a suspension system to keep your little one from bouncing around. A more comfortable ride means a happier child, which allows you to go longer distances. Most dedicated jogging strollers—and all of Wirecutter's picks in that category—have a decent suspension system to absorb impact and protect the child's spine. Of our picks, the BOB Gear Alterrain has the most robust suspension and is best for rougher, off-road rides.
Treaded, larger tires are another important feature that you’ll find on jogging strollers. Most are air-filled, though I recently tested a few options that had foam-core tires, including the budget Chicco Activ3 Jogging Stroller. What's most important is that the tires are durable enough to handle bumps in the road without popping and thick enough to absorb impact. Again, this feature leads to a smoother, safer ride for children, and it makes the stroller easier to push at high speeds.
A locking front wheel is, arguably, the most important aspect of a jogging stroller. Typically, strollers that are not designed for jogging have front wheels that swivel, which allows you to more easily maneuver. Jogging strollers, in contrast, should have a setting that allows the front wheel to either swivel or lock. As you start to move faster, that front wheel, if it's unlocked, will wobble, eventually causing the stroller to crash. There are many locking systems available, but my favorites, such as the systems in the BOB Gear Alterrain and the Thule Urban Glide 2, allow you to set the tracking by hand so that the stroller doesn't veer left or right.
Finally, many jogging strollers have a hand brake (or at least a wrist loop) to help you stop the stroller quickly if it starts to get away from you when you’re moving downhill.
If you were a runner before you decided to jog with a kid in tow, note that running with a stroller requires making a few small adjustments.
Pro runner Calum Neff, who told us that he often sees new parents with a death grip on the handlebars, advocates a more fluid motion. He runs with one hand on the handlebar while the other swings freely, and he switches arms every so often. "One hand is more than enough 99% of the time," he said. "I’m often running almost to the side—there are times when I’m running beside my kid, controlling the stroller with one hand."
Marianne Ryan, a New York City–based physical therapist, said that people running with strollers should lean forward. "If you’re upright, you have to extend your back and neck. You should almost be at an angle, bending at the hip not at the back," she told us. If you find yourself kicking the bottom of the stroller, shorten your stride or run alongside the stroller instead of directly behind it. Shorter strides are better for engaging your core, anyway.
Dress your small running companion in an additional layer compared with what you’re wearing. If it's a hot or wet day, make sure they have appropriate gear. And always, always bring a bottle and snacks—there's nothing worse than getting stuck a couple of miles from home with a crying, hungry baby. (Extra diapers are also recommended.)
Make sure the child's harness is tight enough—you should be able to fit two fingers, but no more, under the straps along their chest, just as with a car seat. And consider bringing along a toy or two; when my son was 16 months old, we tied bells to our stroller, and they kept him occupied for quite a while. And don't worry if your child isn't happy with this running setup the first few times. Hang in there. Eventually, they’ll probably come to enjoy it!
If you’re breastfeeding, bring extra hydration and snacks for yourself, as well. For the first few runs, make loops close to home, rather than going for distance, so that you can stop by home if you need to grab extra supplies. Doing a quick, regular maintenance check every few weeks to confirm that your jogging stroller's tires are inflated properly and it doesn't have any loose screws will keep your stroller in good shape for years to come, too.
Just a week ago, I took my now 10-month-old daughter out for a run in the Thule Urban Glide 2, which has been our jogging stroller of choice for years, and she shrieked with joy for the entire 3-mile jaunt. She shouted at trees, waved at passersby, and giggled each time we hit a bump. We both returned home grinning ear-to-ear, a testament to how truly fun it can be to run with a child, even though getting used to the new setup takes some time. Exposing my children to nature while fitting in exercise for myself is, for me, a pure parenting win-win.
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Kalee Thompson.
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