Your 8-year-old wants to join a running club. Is she too young?
Heck, if it’s properly coached and supervised, and your family physician clears it, why not? It’s better than having her wasting time in front of a computer.
– Bill Hageman
Don’t 8-year-olds run around anyway? Unless your doctor expresses concern about joint stress – it would be nice if youngsters weren’t running on concrete or asphalt – or the hours are ungodly (“we run every morning at 5 a.m., rain or shine”), anything that associates physical activity with fun sounds like a fine idea.
– Phil Vettel
As far as I’ve heard, the old thinking about sports and exercise being harmful to kids and physical development seems to be old thinking. From what I’ve read, running and an interest in fitness at a young age are good things. A 2011 study published in Clinical Pediatrics suggests the main injuries to children from running are from trips and falls – so double-knot her shoelaces – not from wear and tear like joint injuries.
– Doug George
Pediatrician Mary Gavin said 8 is a perfectly acceptable age to take up running, particularly in an organized setting in which adults can supervise your daughter in her endeavors.
“I would absolutely encourage it,” said Gavin, senior medical editor at KidsHealth.org. “In addition to the general fitness, maintaining a healthy weight and other physical benefits, girls gain a lot from sports because of the psychological advantages shown from being physically active. It can improve her self-esteem and body image and, in a group, offer her camaraderie and support.”
Gavin cautions parents to make sure their young runners hydrate properly and set aside an appropriate number of days to rest. She refers to the guidelines established by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which state the following:
The maximum running distance for kids under 9 is 1.5 miles.
If your child is training for a longer distance, weekly training distances should not exceed twice the maximum competition distance. For example, kids should only be running up to 6 miles per week if they are planning to run in a 5K race.
Kids up to age 14 should only run three times per week.
You should change their running shoes every 500 miles at a minimum.
Tell your child to use pain as a guide. “ ‘No pain, no gain’ does not work here,” say the guidelines.
“I would also make sure your daughter is finding time between runs for age-appropriate activities like playing outside on the playground,” Gavin said. “Maybe a little basketball, a little swimming. At the elementary school age it’s important to keep kids involved in a variety of physical activities and not get too focused on one, because of the risk of overuse injuries on developing bones.”
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