My Mum showed me a really interesting article on kids endurance running this week: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/child-health/article3619483.ece (The Times, Tuesday December 4th 2012.
It’s called “Should a child run 5k races at 7″ and opens with a 7 year old with a 5k pb of 26 minutes. Younger children are running increasingly longer distances and even have their own name: “endurokids”. Some 8 and 9 year olds are running half and full marathons in unbelievable times, with their sights firmly set on ultra distances.
There isn’t any in-depth research into the long term effects of doing high mileage in these early years but the overall message from the article seems to be not to do too much too soon. Children naturally love running and many studies show that short bursts of high activity, which they naturally engage in, are more beneficial while their basic motor skills and fitness are still developing.
The article comes down on the side of caution and cites several experts who believe that putting excessive strain on developing joints will be detrimental to children’s health. Possible side effects listed include: a mismatch of growth rates, chrondromalacia patellae (caused by imbalance in muscle strength of either side of knee-cap) and Osgood-Schlatter disease (inflammation of the growth plates at the top of the shinbone).
The Times doesn’t often voice my opinion but this is a rare instance where it does. Both my son and daughter love running and have completed 1k and 1mile fun runs. It was great to see their faces as they crossed the finishing line and got their medal – a real sense of achievement. We often run/walk together with the ultimate goal being that they continue to enjoy exercise.
That said, the dedication, discipline and commitment needed to run long distances isn’t something I’m comfortable with my 6 year old taking on. There’s plenty of time for longer distances, and lots of other experiences to try out.
For now I love seeing the kids running about with their friends or asking to go out for a run with Mr D and I – it’s fun, sociable and the main goal is to enjoy it. That’s what running is about in our house and that’s what I want for my children.