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This question was motivated by seeing a 6 or 7 year old girl jogging with her mom today. I was in slow moving traffic so I know she ran at least 2.5 miles (the distance between the lights causing said traffic). The little girl was was wearing ear buds, running shoes/gear, and had what liked like a pedometer on her waist. A perfect replica of her mom. If she wasn't so young it would have been cute, but because of her apparent age it left me feeling more disturbed than anything.

Don't get me wrong- kids need exercise. But I feel that pre-adolescence, it should be more about play, fun, team building, and sportsmanship than "fitness." Perhaps my opinion is off base? After all, Olympians are made not born right?

However, with Olympians in mind, I am having trouble finding any other motivation for a lengthy jog than to be fit or to train. I actually love jogging, but wouldn't dream of encouraging my 9 year old to do it because the benefits (besides an Olympic Medal) I'm seeking are not applicable to him-cardiovascular health, weight management, mental clarity, muscle tone...frankly, running just seems like it would be really boring for a kid. Of course there are also risks involved, which are joint damage, getting hit by a car, sprains, etc...So why would someone allow/encourage a young child to do it? Is it healthy for a 6, 7, 8 year old to do long distance running? At what age is running a healthy form of exercise for a kid?

Am I crazy for thinking this scene was weird to begin with? (That's a matter of opinion and not good "stack" form so no one has to answer that...)

I don't want people to think I'm picking on runners- I also wonder if any of these other "adult" sports would be healthy/appropriate for a young child (say, more than 5, less than puberty): -weight lifting -swimming (laps, not as part of a team) -cycling

Do any of these sports have a benefit unique to children (as in, something kids would get that adults wouldn't- such as a development advantage) that would make them a better alternative to the usual kid sports (baseball, soccer, karate, etc) that perhaps I am unaware of?

I realize there's quite a bit of opinion-orientated questions in here- but I'm leaving it so that my intent is understood. I'm really curious to know if running, etc, is harmful to kids or merely unpopular. If they are harmful, at what age do they transition into the healthy category?

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I disagree that cardiovascular health is not beneficial to children. If they get enough 'fitness' from doing things that are 'play' - good, but what if they don't? They do need to move, and maybe this kid likes running and hates soccer. (As a side note, as a non-fit adult, being encouraged to do more cardio as a kid would have benefitted me immensely long term). –  Ida Jul 22 at 4:42
    
I'm not saying cardiovascular health is not beneficial to kids-you misunderstood. I'm saying that I've never met a 6 year old that is actively pursuing it. I am merely wondering if the sudden increase in children pursuing fitness is a side effect of the two unhealthy trends that are affecting younger and younger kids: obesity and body image issues- and if it's healthy (mostly physically because long distance running has some negative effects on joints and decreases body fat which young children need). I did say that kids do need exercise... –  Jax Jul 22 at 11:26

2 Answers 2

This sort of thing is really common. My 8 year old has been training at half marathon distance (walking, jogging and running) for 6 months now. Her idea - she's raising money for a charity helping one of her friends.

My eldest two have been doing triathlons since the age of 9 or so, and again, all their own idea. They were given the option of full training but decided to have a life outside training, so only train 12 hours a week. There are a couple of their friends who train for the junior Scottish team, and they train over 35 hours a week!

My point there is that 12 hours a week of training in this area is considered 'amateur' or relatively casual. At these levels the coaches don't see any health risk, and in fact only health benefits. Things like sprains can happen anywhere - and doing exercise actually reduces the likelihood. Getting hit by a car - very easy to avoid: run on paths etc., so I think this worry is not really warranted.

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I agree. I also think it's probably a way to get mother-daughter time in, when the mother will be doing this anyway. My almost 7 year old nephew runs similarly, with his mom, and does the occasional race. I ran some as well as a kid (but not quite that young); it was a fun family outing, we jogged some and walked some. –  Joe Jul 21 at 17:23

You mash up a bunch of different things in your question.

HEALTH.

http://housecalls.djmed.net/wellness/jogging.htm

Because of the increasing danger to the growing child participating in adult type marathon events, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued an official statement against it.

Several years ago the academy stated that there was reason to have fear of the effects of micro-trauma on the growth centers of long bones during children's competitive running.

They denounced extreme forms of competitive running for children; and children are excluded (appropriately so) from many marathon races.

Children are at particularly high risk for heat stress during exercise. It is well-known that children do not dissipate heat well at all and are highly susceptible to hear build-up.

In addition, they generate more heat for a given activity than do adults, as well as perspiring less.

That shows there are serious health risks that are not considered by many people jogging with children. Heat regulation is a severe problem, and most people are going to push children to drink a lot of water. (The link I provide suggests this) But more people die from hyponatremia (too much water) than from dehydration and balancing the fluid intake for a child is going to be difficult.

You then mention some other stuff:

However, with Olympians in mind, I am having trouble finding any other motivation for a lengthy jog than to be fit or to train.

Plenty of children are either obese or overweight and could do with some exercise.

-weight lifting -swimming (laps, not as part of a team) -cycling

Weight lifting is worse, swimming is better, cycling is probably a bit better than running but carries other risks.

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