Should Children Run for Exercise?

children running

The winter snows are disappearing and slowly temperatures are warming up. Many athletes have taken out their running shoes and are ready to start running outdoors. Many parent athletes ask whether their children should accompany them in their running sessions. Should children in fact take part in running at all? This article looks at a couple of research studies that have probed this question.

Running is Popular
In 2007, it was estimated that 12 million kids aging from six to 17 take part in running for exercise. Running is becoming popular and recommended as it is cheap and needs little equipment or training. But, with increasing popularity, the number of injuries have also risen.
First Study
The first study published recently in Clinical Pediatrics looks at why child runners visited hospital emergency rooms between the years 1994 to 2007. The researchers garnered information about kids who got hurt when they took part in running exercise regimens. Injuries occurring while taking part in team sports such as football and soccer were not included. The kids specifically had to be running as part of their program to become fit.

Running Injuries
According to the research, greater than 225,340 kids had to be treated for injuries during the 14-year research period. The number of injures kept rising with each passing year. In 2007, the number of injuries was 34% more than when the research started in 1994. The common causes of running injuries were twisted ankles, scraped elbows, wrists and scalps, and head trauma because of falling while running.

Kids Running Marathon
Another study looked at kid runners who took part in the yearly Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota between the years 1982 to 2007. 310 kids aged between seven to 17 managed to completed the arduous 26.2 mile marathon race. Some even clocked good timings. And, only four out of the 310 young race finishers needed medical attention. Even these four were only advised a brief rest.

Running Causes Stress Fractures
These two apparently contradicting research results suggest that what is required for kids who want to run is appropriate caution. But, the researchers say the long-term effects of kids running long-distance races such as marathons is not known. A few other studies have reported high incidences of stress fractures in high-school runners.

Cautionary Tips
If you are a kid who wants to take part in running, implement the following tips to remain safe and healthy: Tie your shoes properly and ensure your running path is clear of obstacles such as broken pavements, lunch boxes, etc. Increase your mileage gradually and not overnight. To reiterate, do not run long-distance races such as marathons as their long-term effects are not known. In running as in life, taking it slow and easy is the best way to success.

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