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Is Running Good For Kids?

Father Running With Daughter

Is running good for kids? Half of you are thinking, “Is this a trick question? F*** yeah running is good for my kids—it tires them out and they actually fall asleep at a normal time.” The other half are thinking, “Well, I don’t know. A little running is good, but running too far can cause joint damage and stunt growth, right? That’s what I’ve heard anyway.”

You might expect to hear that you are both right. But, you’d be flat out wrong. Running is good for kids plain and simple. So far, there’s been no evidence showing there’s a physiological limit to how far kids can safely run.

In his book, Lore of Running, Timothy Noakes, MD, states, “Gifted young runners [6-to 10-year-olds], who choose to run these distances [more than 10K] are at no greater risk of an unfavorable outcome or injury than are adults completing the same distances under the same environmental conditions.”

And look at Kenyan school children. They run about 6 miles a day back and forth from school. They average up to 50 miles a week. And no, contrary to popular belief, Kenyans are not genetically superior to the rest of the world, as explained in this running story from Competitor. They just train harder than you and me.

A 2007 study published in Pediatrics Journal concluded, “There are no recorded data on injuries sustained by children who run marathons.” Wait, did they say marathons? It’s OK for kids to run marathons? Keep in mind, they’re talking about junior high and high school-aged kids here, but still. The study goes on, “Ultimately, there is no reason to disallow participation of a young athlete in a properly run marathon as long as the athlete enjoys the activity and is asymptomatic.”

Most kids are natural athletes. Of course, some kids like running and being active. Some don’t. And that’s a big key to this whole question. Kids can and should decide their own limits. Now, it should go without saying you don’t want to force a kid to run long distance. But, if they’re interested, let ‘em run!

My daughter started running with me when she was 2. She doesn’t run regularly with me, but she has run up to a mile a couple of times. She’ll be 5 next year. Too young? What do you think? Share what age you started running with your kids.

Steve Lemig

Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Managing Editor at Road Runner Sports for the last 11 years.