It all started this past summer. I was out for my morning run in my neighborhood when I first saw them. In formation like some motorcycle gang, a dozen moms pushing their babies in strollers crested the hill two-by-two, chatting and laughing as they rolled past.

Feeling a little intimidated, my dog and I gave them as much room as they needed. After that day, I started seeing the same group of mothers walking together several mornings a week. Their faces were always flush and rosy and it was clear they were getting a good workout and having way too much fun along the way.

Turns out, the phenomenon known as Stroller Fitness has taken the world by storm as more moms are staying at home and still trying to find a way to stay fit.

I learned that the gang of ladies were participating in a class by Stroller Strides. Stroller Strides is national program that promotes a total fitness program for new moms that they can do with their babies. It includes power walking and intervals of body toning using exercise tubing and the stroller.

The class is taught by specially trained instructors and any level of exerciser is welcome.

For the winter months they also offer indoor classes. Find out if there is a Stroller Strides class in your town by going to: www.strollerstrides.com/search.php or StrollerFit at www.strollerfit.com.

The rule is that right after your baby is born you should only do low-impact exercise with the approval of your doctor.

The best way to get those midsection muscles back in shape without working too hard during recovery is to walk. This will also be good for baby. Though the baby can't see very far yet, she will get to experience fresh air and the sounds of the outside world.

You can go back to jogging after you have healed completely and have the OK from your doctor.

So how to you choose the right jogging stroller? Baby Boot Camp founder Kristen Horler lists the following recommendations.

Say no to four-wheelers. Whether you're jogging or just walking briskly, the small wheels on traditional all-in-one strollers can create too much friction and create a dangerous situation for you and your baby. Instead, pick a stroller with three fixed wheels.

Inflatable and big is best. When it comes to wheels, go with inflatable rubber ones of 16-inch diameter or larger. Choose a stroller with 20-inch wheels if you'll be doing serious running.

Get adjustable. Stollers with adjustable handlebars are especially handy if you'll be sharing it with your (taller or shorter) partner. Besides ensuring the correct stroller posture for all, adjustable handlebars can also increase your performance and comfort by dialing in a position to best fit your workout, whether you're climbing hills, jogging on flat ground or power walking.

Brake down. Strollers with hand brakes are handy for slowing down on hills and such, but can disengage or slip when used as a parking brake. So, choose models with a rear-wheel foot brake. Also make sure the stroller comes with a run-away leash.

Go for a test drive. Before you buy, try as many different strollers as you can. Borrow one from a friend and don't be afraid to jog around the store with a stroller.

What you'll spend. Expect to pay $300 to $350 for a new lightweight aluminum jogging stroller of good quality. Also check out the local newspaper or websites like craigslist.org for good deals on lightly used strollers that might be gathering dust in someone's garage.

Extras that count. Look for thoughtful features like key clips, water-bottle holders and an under-seat storage bin.

Remember your co-pilot. Insist on a padded five-point safety harness for your child, and a reclining seat, which is a necessity for babies six months or younger who can't hold up their heads on their own. It also helps make naptime workouts much easier.

The bottom line is that a new mom or dad should not underestimate the value of taking your child out for a stroll or the necessity of taking care of their own health and fitness.

So, bundle up Junior, get on the walking path, start “strollin” and racking up those Shape Up Montana miles.

Hmmmm... I wonder if they make a stroller big enough for my 90-pound Rottweiler?

Suzie Eades is a certified personal trainer and operations director of the Big Sky State Games. She will be contributing a weekly Shape Up Montana column to The Gazette's health section until the program wraps up in May.

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