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Running with a stroller: Exactly How Much Harder Is It?

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I don’t even have to think twice when it comes to naming my favorite baby-care gadget. Because out of the thousands of gizmos available to new parents, only one – no, two – has stood the test of time for us. Out of all the so-called baby “must-haves” that we were advised to buy, we only used two items multiple times a week, without exception, for an uninterrupted 6.5 years. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Our jogging strollers. First a single running with a stroller, and then later, with the arrival of Blessing No. 2, a double.

As a new running mom, our jogging stroller(s) not only offered me the opportunity to momentarily escape the clutches of the ever-growing laundry pile that threatened to engulf me, but it also allowed me to do so with my kids. It was our ticket to family fun and adventures in the sun, and we all loved it.

Pushing a jogging stroller is hard work

And while I have nothing but good memories of our jogging stroller days, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard work. Just ask any running parent: running with a stroller is not easy. Imagine running with a parachute strapped to your back, or sprinkling handfuls of jumping lunges and burpees into an easy jog around the block. Because that’s exactly how it feels to run with a double stroller on a super windy day or to trudge through the thick sand with a single stroller. It chews you up and spits you out.

But just how much harder running with a jogging stroller is? Does it really burn more calories and build extra strength when compared to regular running? Research teams around the globe have made it their mission to find out.

The impact of stroller running on energy expenditure

When it comes to energy expenditure, a team from Seattle Pacific University recently compared three different techniques to normal running. Not surprisingly, they found that when compared to normal, stroller-free running, pushing a stroller with two hands while running burned around 5% more calories. Pushing a jogging stroller with one hand while running burned even more calories (6%), while the two-handed push-and-chase method resulted in the most calories burned. The latter method expended about 8% more energy than stroller-free running.

Ask me why I race” by Chris Hunkeler. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In other words, if a running parent can match the pace that he/she would be running without a jogging stroller while running with a jogging stroller, he/she would expend between 5% and 8% more energy, depending on the method used to push the stroller. Alternatively, if the running parent runs slower with the jogging stroller than without (which is normally the case), they can still burn the same amount of calories than what they would have while running alone at a higher speed.

The impact of stroller running on heart rate, lactate concentration, ventilation and rate of perceived exertion

But what about other physiological variables? How are they impacted by running with a jogging stroller?

1. The impact of stroller running on certain physiological variables – Part I

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2005 looked at exactly that, among other things. As part of the study, five male and five female participants were required to perform two field tests: One running with a jogging stroller for 30 minutes at 75% of VO2max with a jogging stroller, and the other without. It was found that heart rate, lactate concentration, the rate of perceived exertion and ventilation were significantly higher after running with a jogging stroller for 30 minutes with a jogging stroller than without.

2. The impact of running with a jogging stroller on certain physiological variables – Part II

Another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine in 2012, required study participants to complete six randomized one-mile repeats over two separate visits. Three of these repeats were completed at a pre-determined pace with no jogging stroller, an 11.36 kg weighted stroller and a 22.72 kg weighted stroller, respectively. The second sets of repeats were similar, except that they were self-paced. Various physiological responses were then measured during each of the trials. In addition, Part I of the study took place on an indoor track, while Part II was conducted on a paved greenway. The results? Heart rate and rate of perceived exertion were significantly higher when running with a jogging stroller on an indoor track when compared to running with no stroller in the same conditions. On the paved greenway, on the other hand, VO2 and rate of perceived exertion were higher when running with a jogging stroller than without.

And while all three of the above-mentioned studies were small in scale and the majority of the researchers recommend that more research is done on the subject, these results certainly act as a starting point to illustrate what stroller runners have been saying all along. Yes, running with a jogging stroller is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Intimidated by the thought of running with a stroller?

But what if you’re intimidated by the thought of running with a jogging stroller? What if you just can’t muster up enough strength or energy to fly down the road with your little one? Don’t fear. A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy in 2013 found that even just walking with a weighted single or double stroller at a speed of at least 3 mph “running with a stroller meets the absolute intensity guidelines for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and can yield health and fitness benefits”.

So if you’re a new mom and you don’t feel up to thrashing your quads or setting your lungs on fire with a stroller run just yet, a speedy walk with your baby in a stroller will benefit you too. Just get out there and move!


Featured image credit:Attack of the stroller moms” by Serge Melki. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.


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