Guide to Healthy Running for Kids

Starting at an early age, a child's participation in physical activities is important.

It helps develop a pattern of behavior that contributes to good (health) and often continues into adulthood. Running is a prime example of an activity that kids can participate in. There are multiple benefits to introducing children to running as a sport. It promotes physical fitness in a number of ways, such as improving endurance and reducing the risk of obesity. Children who run are able to challenge themselves and gain self-confidence. Often, they are also better able to concentrate and develop an understanding of how to achieving goals. Depending on the running activity, it also allows children to work with others and learn how to participate as a part of a team.

Parents can create interest in running by encouraging their kids to go on runs with them and by making the experience one that is enjoyable. Depending on their age, rewards for running achievements, such as stickers, may help encourage the desire to run. Tracking and reviewing improvements in their running time can also be an exciting motivator for some youth to continuously improve their running performance. For others, being around young runners of the same age or slightly older may be encouraging, or joining a running group can be a successful way to pique their interest in participating in the sport. Of course, when encouraging their children to participate in running, parents must make sure to focus on fundamentals to make sure that they stay safe.

Understand What it Means to Have Balance

One of the keys to kids’ running is to ensure that they maintain a healthy balance of activities and not push themselves too much. When kids run, whether in track at school or in a marathon, a sense of competitiveness and the desire to be the fastest can encourage them to train harder and longer than they should. When kids overtrain, their risk of injury is increased. Additionally, excessive running can make this otherwise enjoyable activity seem like a chore, and their interest in participating may greatly diminish. Create balance by encouraging kids to participate in other activities in addition to running. When training, engage in drills and activities that are challenging but also motivating and fun.

Set Safe Running Distances for Children

Running as an adult differs from running as a child. As a healthy adult, one can run as far as they are physically able to. Children, however, should be limited in the distances they run depending on factors such as their age, fitness level, and physical development. Because children are still growing, they can encounter problems due to repetitive stress on bones and physical changes that may cause injury or abnormalities in growth. Additionally, their smaller lung capacity may result in greater fatigue. Endurance training and long-distance running such as marathons may potentially present a problem for youth.

Medical professionals and scientists vary in their opinions about how long and far children can or should run. A general guideline parents may follow is that kids who are younger than 9 years can potentially run 3K at most, and between the ages of 9 and 11, they should run no more than a 5K. This increases as they enter their teen years. Runners between the ages of 12 and 14 should participate in no more than a 10K, while kids 15-16 may run half-marathons if properly trained and in good physical condition. Because every child differs, adults entering children into running events should consult their pediatrician and always follow their age and distance guidelines.

Injury Prevention Tips

In addition to controlling running distance, adults can help keep kids safe by following practical safety strategies. Proper warm-up and cool-down techniques can help reduce injury. Staying hydrated and heeding symptoms of potential injuries will also help reduce the risk of even more serious injuries. Wearing the right clothing for the season and the appropriate footwear for running are also important factors for safety. Footwear should fit the child’s feet properly and be tailored to the type of running that they plan to engage in.

Training for a Race

When training kids to participate in a race, adults should strive to keep it fun. It’s important to come up with a training plan and to start off at a slow pace. As training progresses, more miles may be added on gradually. Working on techniques such as proper breathing and form is also crucial during the training process. Focusing on good nutrition to maintain a strong body is equally as important as the physical part of training and should not be skipped.

Running Gear

In addition to comfortable running shoes, kids should also be properly equipped with the right gear. Like shoes, the right clothing is also considered crucial to running. To ensure that they stay hydrated, they should have a water bottle handy. And sun protection in the form of a hat and waterproof sunscreen can protect their skin from overexposure to the sun.

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