Baby Exercises Will Put More Athletes on Deck — Or Not

Thursday, 02 Dec 2010 10:23 AM

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OK, so Baby Ruth candy bars aren’t named after The Babe. So the chocolatey, chewy peanut and nougat delights don’t necessarily have an athletic connection, besides the fact that too many Baby Ruths make it hard to get off the couch — let alone move around the diamond. But a new trend to immerse babies in exercises even before they can walk just might generate some Babe Ruths, or Babe Zahariases. Or not, according to some doubting Thomases who probably don’t believe the Curtiss Candy Co.’s explanation for the candy bar’s name anyway.

Babe Ruth, exercises, Baby RuthThe athletic advocates contend that infant exercises, which often include sports-like activities such as kicking soccer balls and batting practice, just make good sense to launch children on a path of lifelong health, according to a story in The New York Times.

“With the babies in our family, I start working them out in the hospital,” fitness coach Doreen Bolhuis told the Times. “The younger, it seems, the better.”

Bolhuis, of Grand Rapids, Mich., even turned her exercises into a company, Gymtrix, that offers videos that include training for babies as young as 6 months.

Babe Zaharias, baby, exercisesDoes the exercise enhance athletic prowess to the level that the kids could grow up with the coordination of golf great Babe Zaharias? Just ask doting parents.

“We hear all the time from families that have been with us, ‘Our kids are superstars when they’re in middle school and they get into sports,’ ” Bolhuis told the Times.

That line of thought has propelled the advent of baby sports DVDs from companies with names such as athleticBaby and Baby Goes Pro, according to the Times, which adds the caveat that even experts in youth sports are startled at the early marketing.

Dr. Lyle Micheli, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the first pediatric sports medicine clinic in the United States at Children’s Hospital in Boston, told the Times he doesn’t see any evidence that such training enhances athletic ability later on. And it raises concern about athletic-related injuries at even younger ages.

Sensitive to such criticism, and to avoid legal problems over any implication that such programs are guaranteed to enhance sports performance, most such video producers tout their products to combat childhood obesity and nurture parent-child bonding.

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