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Is running good for kids?

Children running

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Walk past any primary school playground at break times and you’re likely to see scores of kids running around enjoying themselves. Running comes naturally to children – often they don’t even realise they’re doing it – and so it makes sense to encourage them to make a hobby of it before they grow out of the ‘Tag, you’re it!’ stage.

Running is a great way to keep fit

Research shows that children who are physically active are more likely to remain active as adults so encouraging your child to get involved in keeping fit is definitely worthwhile and running is a brilliant way to do this. Not only is it free (unless you decide to join a running club), it gets kids outdoors, increases energy levels, develops muscle strength, bone strength and the cardio-vascular system and helps to maintain a healthy body weight. Exercise in general also helps to improve coordination, moods, body image and self-esteem. Anyone who runs regularly will tell you the satisfaction and sense of achievement that can come from beating a personal best time.

Boy running

Obviously team sports like football, hockey or netball all involve running and someone speedy will always have an advantage over a slower opponent. But for kids who aren’t so competitive or are less sociable, running for its own sake is a brilliant activity to both challenge them and keep fit. It’s easy to get started with not much equipment needed and there are no complex rules learn first. For many people, one of the main advantages of running is that it can be as competitive or non-competitive as you like. You can race against other runners or against yourself, trying to beat your best time or distance. Alternatively, you can just go out and run until you get tired or bored without recording how far you’ve run in what time. In running there doesn’t have to be clear winners and losers, everyone can ‘race’ against their own aims and even the person last to cross the finish line can feel like a winner.

Risks with running as a child

While the benefits of running are numerous for children, there are some points that should be taken into consideration. The key to keeping running enjoyable for anyone, but especially kids, is to keep distance and time goals achievable. Pushing too hard will only result in a despondent child and perhaps even injury. Rather than have your child tag along with you on a run, make sure the training is targeted at her abilities. Bear in mind that children’s bodies are still developing so they shouldn’t run too far in one go. Sprinting is great for kids who haven’t yet mastered the skill of pacing themselves and longer routes should be completed with a mixture of running and walking. As kids grow and their bodies become stronger, they can start to run further. It is widely thought that long spells of road running aren’t ideal for children as it puts a lot of stress their developing bodies, particularly the legs and lower back area. Try to include lots of grassy or sandy areas into the route to minimise impact and the risk of injury.

It doesn’t matter whether a child is sprinting short distances or mastering long cross country courses, the important thing is that they’re out there enjoying being active. And with tactful encouragement, they’ll hopefully thank you for it when they have a relaxing yet invigorating hobby as an adult.






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