Kids and Distance Running
|October 23, 2013||Posted by The Fit Scoop under Uncategorized|
I saw this news story today about a 6-year-old who recently ran a half-marathon. She ran it in 2:47 and is the youngest recorded half-marathoner (the previous holder was 9 years old). Pretty amazing, right? When I was 6, I had no idea what a half-marathon was and certainly didn’t have the ability to run one. It got me to wondering, is long-distance running a good idea for kids and when are they old enough to start?
It seems like there are a lot of considerations to take into account. First and foremost is the safety of long-distance running for kids. We all know that long-distance running involves a lot of impact and stress on the body. Kids are susceptible to the same overuse injuries that we are as adults, with stress fractures being particularly common among young female runners. Falls are also apparently common, likely due to the fact that kids bodies are constantly changing and growing, thereby throwing off their balance. Another important consideration is that kids bodies don’t dissipate heat as well as adults do because of their higher metabolic rate and fewer sweat glands. This puts them at greater risk for heat illness during exercise. The general consensus seems to be that long-distance running isn’t inherently unsafe for kids, but it requires careful monitoring to ensure that they remain healthy. Some tips are to keep an eye their growth and weight to ensure it remains in the normal ranges, and to monitor their eating and sleeping habits to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition and rest. It’s also important to monitor them carefully for injuries and to make sure you address them early before they become a serious issue.
I didn’t start running until I graduated from college – until then I had a very un-athletic youth. I sometimes wonder how my experience with running might be different had I started earlier. Would I like it as much? I also wonder if my future daughter will want to run. If so, what distances will I find appropriate for her? I’ll be honest – I’d probably be apprehensive about her running a half-marathon at a young age simply because it requires a lot of time for training. I think her time and energy would be better spent on a team sport where she could be physically active and experience all of the benefits that come from being part of a team. However, if she expressed a serious interest in it then I wouldn’t want to discourage her since I know first-hand the joys of running and would love to share that with her. Either way, I want her to focus on having FUN with physical activity, whether it be running or a different sport. Exercise can easily feel like a chore for kids if it isn’t fun.
What do you think – is long-distance running a good way to get kids active or are team sports a better alternative?
Would you let your 6-year-old run a half-marathon?