Why Running Is Good For Your Child
Running is a fantastic sport to involve your child in from a very young age. It offers a host of rewarding and long-term benefits too. This World Run Day, get your child to go out there and well, run!
By Varsha Venkatesh
One run can change your day, many runs can change your life. — Anonymous
Running doesn't just make your child healthier, it also has the power to change his life. It can shape his personality, enhance his powers of focus and concentration. It teaches him about setting and achieving goals. What's more, it can also instil a sense of sportsmanship. These become valuable life lessons as your child grows into adulthood.
As part of our series for World Run Day, let's look at why you should get your child to run.
Why kids must run
Sedentary lifestyles have resulted in an increasing incidence of childhood obesity, today. This, in turn, has led to a host of medical problems affecting children's health and well-being. More worryingly, unhealthy weight gain can lead to your child developing a range of health conditions, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Breathing problems like asthma and sleep apnea
Which is why schools now encourage children to be more active. Most schools have put in place scheduled times for physical activities alongside academics, to help and support the long-term health of students.
Running is good for the body and mind
“I started running from a very young age and it has made me who I am today. It helped me push my boundaries and believe in myself,” says Haridas, a coach at a leading sports facility. What's more, running can help children become emotionally and physically stronger. This is especially important as they reach adolescence.
Why is running crucial at this phase? This is a stage characterised by rapid change and growth in children — physically, emotionally, psychologically. So, while their bodies are in a rapid growth phase, their lung capacities are not fully developed. In fact, the physical changes alone may sometimes leads to the development of poor self-esteem and body image.
Hence, educating your child about the importance of physical exercise and proper nutrition can be extremely helpful. A healthier lifestyle that includes running, can also help him build character, confidence and develop a positive body image.
How much can your child run?
Coach Haridas believes parents have a huge role to play when it comes to their children's health. "Encouraging your child to participate in sports and activities that involve running can lead to your child becoming fit and active. However, over-training can lead to fatigue and repetitive injuries," he cautions. A healthy balance between practice days and rest is necessary to keep children injury-free. This way, running can turn into an activity that your child will continue to love even when she becomes an adult.
As she was running, 15-year-old Meera felt sudden excruciating pain in her left knee and collapsed. Later, it was discovered that she had ruptured her left knee joint. Being a lead athlete in school, the teen had been pushing herself hard. She had been training every day to compete in a state-level athletics meet. Unfortunately, she had also been running low on rest. The serious injury meant she was forced to rest and recuperate in order to fully recover.
Haridas points out that both parents and teachers need to monitor how much, as well as, how children run. "Ensure that children don't over-train and injure themselves," he adds. But, proper training by itself is not enough; as parents, you need to be supportive and also, provide your child a healthy diet.
Physical activity is a vital component of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. And running is one of the simplest activities children can take up to become fitter and more active — mentally, physically and emotionally. Here are some other ways running helps:
- Running helps build endurance
- It offers a sense of reward and achievement
- Children develop stronger bones and muscles and are less prone to gaining weight
- It offers them a sense of joy and freedom
- Above all, it teaches them self-respect and strong values.
Safe running practices
In order to embrace running as a long-term activity, without risking health or athletic abilities, it is mandatory that children follow safe running practices.
Childhood is the ideal age to inculcate good habits. This includes running techniques. As parent, be sure to teach your child the right way to run. This is very important. For that will help your child build stamina but also learn instinctively how he can conserve energy while running.
Other points to keep in mind to stay healthy and injury-free:
- Appropriate running shoes
- Running on softer surfaces wherever possible
- Including stretches and warm-ups at regular intervals
- Appropriate nutrition
- Adequate rest
How can you encourage your child to run?
It’s important to have a healthy balance in doing anything. So, ensure your child does not overdo or over-train to point that she becomes injured or mentally drained. Including warm-up drills, cool down sessions, fitness games, races and discussions about running and nutrition may help in giving intervals for the body to cope.
As a parent, ensure that your child loves running because it is fun and elevates the mood — don't focus only on the competitive aspects. Also, children follow their parents' lead. It is vital that you take care of yourself by embracing an active lifestyle. When your child sees you stay happy and healthy through physical exercise, he will naturally, follow suit.
Here's wishing your child happy running!
With inputs from Haridas, coach of a leading sports facility.
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