Get Your Kids Up, Out and on the Path to Fitness

Running is great exercise for kids. It burns calories, builds muscle and helps create a strong cardiovascular system. Here’s how to start pounding the pavement as a family.

Provide a good example.

To inspire your children to put on their sneakers, be a running role model. Watching you and seeing the benefits of being fit will likely make them want to try it. Once they’re ready to hit the road, ease them into it. Start out slowly, build up gradually and allow kids to stop and rest anytime they want.

Set fitness goals together.

As you run with your kids, teach them to set goals — and keep track of the miles and milestones they achieve. Start jogging together three or four days a week. To make it more challenging, gradually increase your total weekly mileage by 10 percent.

Remember that kids’ abilities vary a lot, and their cartilage is more susceptible to injury. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, many experts agree that to run a mile a child should be at least in second grade. By fifth grade, children can do three miles. Keep it fun, and you’ll likely instill a lifelong love of fitness in your children.

Take steps to lower their risk of injury.

Keep your family fitness routine safe and fun with these tips.

  • Encourage your child to run on a soft surface, such as a dirt trail or a grassy playing field. This can help reduce kids’ risk of impact injuries like shin splints, heel pain and stress fractures.
  • Watch the weather. Children heat up more quickly than adults, so don’t let them jog when it’s super hot outside. When you’re running together, make sure they drink water every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Set limits. Some children think a little pain is normal and will try to keep running (which can result in injury). As you run, ask kids how they feel, and adjust your pace — or stop — as needed.

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