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Running and Kids

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 26 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Running For Kids Running For Exercise

It is the rare parent who has not at one time or another, reprimanded their children for running in the house. It has been said that parents spend the first year of their children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk, only to spend the following years pleading with kids to sit down and be quiet. But considering the ever-increasing numbers of overweight and obese children, maybe today’s children are spending far too much time sitting down.

Little Runners

While most parents are wise to forbid running in the house, running is a natural activity for young children and should be encouraged. Games that incorporate running, such as tag, are fun for kids, helping them to make early associations between exercise and fun. Engaging preschoolers and young school aged kids in footraces and casual runs is fun for the whole family, so parents should take advantage of their children’s natural willingness to run, establishing daily exercise as a way of life.

Competitive Running for Kids

While running for fun and as a part of game playing is without question positive for children, there are varying opinions as to the wisdom of allowing kids to train for competitive running. The hesitation seems to stem from a growing sense of discomfort about putting kids into competitive frames of mind, though, rather than the actual safety of running specifically. As long as kids are not forced to meet unreasonable standards set by parents or coaches, running can be a safe and pleasurable way for kids to stay active and fit.

Putting unhealthy demands on child runners can have negative consequences, so training should never be extreme or begun with the notion that kids are merely small adults. Their growing bodies have different abilities and limitations that those of adults, so kids need to train only at levels that pose no risks to their short and long term health and development. Children are less able than grown-ups to regulate their body temperatures, so running distances of more than a few kilometers, especially in extremely hot or cold weather, may not be wise. Additionally, repetitive high impact activity, as occurs in running, can cause stress fractures or other injuries, but when conditioning is not extreme and distances are kept reasonable, most kids can run safely while suffering nothing more than occasional sore muscles.

Mini Marathon Runners

It is rather ironic that in these times of growing childhood obesity, the number of kids who are training to run in 5-K events is greater than ever. It is increasingly common for organisers of full fledged marathons to add short distance events for kids, introducing them to the sport of running. Parents who participate in long distance running may find that their children hope to follow in their footsteps (no pun intended) and encourage their kids to start with short distance runs, building strength and stamina over time. Since it is a well known fact that children are apt to emulate the fitness habits of their parents, active parents are certainly providing better examples for their kids than those who find exercise to be distasteful.

Benefits of Running for Kids

Running and the ability to maintain activity for a length of time are vital skills that can be applied to a number of other sports, making running a good training technique for a variety of athletes. For this reason, it is not uncommon for coaches of other sports, such as soccer, to include regular running as part of their overall conditioning programmes. Running is also beneficial to kids in that they are not dependent on the participation of others in order to workout, so even if friends lose interest in the activity, kids who run can maintain their fitness plan. Additionally, running qualifies as a life sport; one in which participants are likely to maintain over their life spans, making it an especially good choice for aspiring fitness buffs. After all, life long health and fitness is the ultimate goal.

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