Just Running with It

by Angela Yorke | May 7th, 2012 | Family Fitness

Parents are usually a major influence on the fitness activity in which a child expresses interest. Running is relatively easy to start with, the most significant expense being a good pair of shoes.

Naturally, any responsible parent would be wary of overexertion. As with adult newcomers to any activity, children should be deemed physically able to take part in running before you begin. Another thing to take note of is that despite their apparent high levels of energy, children should not be expected to run at the same intensity or distance as that of an adult, i.e., the parent.

This is not merely because they might exhaust themselves too soon, but also because children’s bodies regulate heat less efficiently than adults, as their ratio of body mass to skin surface is higher. This means that they are vulnerable to suffering more detrimental effects of overheating. A simple way to prevent an unhappy ending to a maiden run is to head out when it’s cooler, such as early in the morning or late in the evening, and ensure the child receives sufficient hydration.

Most runners are concerned with running form. While children are supposed to be natural pose runners, it is by no means the only way they run. Whatever the style, the main thing to remember when running with a child is a relaxed form. Tension is most visible in the form of clenched fists, a strained-looking neck, hunched shoulders, and a scrunched up face. If this happens, reduce the pace so that you and the child can chat and laugh while running.

That said, a relaxed pace doesn’t mean ponderous running. Rather than telling the child to focus on a mid-foot strike and brisk cadence, it would be more helpful to have them imagine that they are running lightly on cotton candy or clouds.

In terms of distance covered, children less than 14 years old are advised to run less than 3 miles in one session to minimize the risk of injury. While having a child who wants to follow in your footsteps is gratifying, you have to remember that children aren’t mini-adults, and any increase in running distance/intensity should be approached gradually.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.