Children Running

What Age Can A Child Start Jogging?

My children love to run. As soon as our kids got the hang of walking, usually between the ages 18-24 months, they automatically followed that up with something that resembles a jogging run. By the age of 5 years my son was completing (not running all of the way) a 5K parkrun.

A child aged between 4-8 years will have started running and jogging naturally. A run to the shop or park will turn into a jog when fatigue and loss of stamina happens.

The ideal age for children to start jogging or training for long-distance running is when they have reached puberty or gone through it thoroughly. That does not indicate that your child should not jog or run before hitting puberty.

If your child is physically strong and mentally able to start jogging, you should not stop them. Just be wary of regular and specialized training at a very young age; it could lead to injuries and psychological burnout.

Running a 5k parkrun with my son when he was aged 5

What Is A Good Age For A Child To Start Jogging?

It’s a question on many a parent’s minds. What is a safe age for your child to start jogging? Let me begin by the beginning. When your child is born, it will take approximately 12-16 months before they are walking. Fast forward to 18-24 months, and your child should be fast walking, semi-jogging from room to room, or on the outside lawn.

At age 4, they are running everywhere, and you wonder why it is so hard to keep up! We definitley found this with our son, getting him into something like parkrun (or the junior version) to be a great way of burning excess energy.

If you have a child that is into jogging and running, consider yourself blessed. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a growing child needs to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Encouraging your child to continue jogging and keeping it fun should be the main aim.

According to research from the book Training Long Distance Runners-3rd Edition by Drs Larry Greene and Russell Pate, and see what the science says about what age a child can start jogging:

1) Their research found that children at very young ages, 6-11 years, are capable of amazing running feats, and some do have the physiological ability and physical attributes to run and jog at very high levels.

  • Marathon distance records in the Junior Olympics for under-8’s stand at 3:13:24 for girls and 3:34:30 for boys (Distance 26.2 miles).
  • Marathon distance records in the Junior Olympics for under-12’s stand at 2:49:21 for girls and 2:47:17 for boys (Distance 26.2 miles).

2)  Some children are more physically mature than other children pre-puberty. These more muscular, taller, and faster children will find jogging easier, and they usually also excel at other sports. Your child may not fall into this group until puberty happens. Jogging longer distances may be too much to expect at this point, and that is perfectly normal. 

3) Many children have a naturally high level of aerobic fitness, and they can perform low-intensity endurance activities. However, they are not somewhat limited in their ability to create energy for high-intensity workouts. The body uses two primary systems when it comes to producing energy for exercise:

  • The aerobic system: This system typically operates when there is enough oxygen available for the muscles.
  • The anaerobic system: This system operates when the oxygen level cannot supply the muscle demand, usually during high-intensity exercise.

The anaerobic system will only be fully developed after children have gone through puberty. How does this impact your child that wants to jog? Well, they will get tired quickly and not be able to run crazy long distances. Some children can jog for long distances. Others do not, and it’s essential to access your child’s capabilities and keep them motivated and running until puberty happens.

4) They presented the following guidelines to indicate what a good age is for a child to start jogging:

  • Age 3-8 years: Children are encouraged to participate in fun runs, play running games, and emphasize participation and not the result.
  • Age 8-12 years: Children may want to participate in a more organized group running program that offers a more systematized training environment, usually lasting 2-3 months.
  • Girls aged 12 and boys aged 14: By these respective ages, they would have gone through their highest rate of growth spurts and will now be physically ready to start a low-mileage and low-intensity training program geared towards competitive individual running.

5) The Drs found that physically immature children taking part in intense high-level training are at a higher risk of injuries, abnormal growth maturation, and psychological burnout.

The Drs concluded in their research that children should not be taking part in regular ( training more than three times per week). Or specialized training (focusing just on jogging or running, excluding other sporting activities) for long-distance running until they have reached or gone through puberty. 

That being said, they strongly encourage children under 11 years of age to run as much as possible, entering 1–2-mile fun runs, competing in their track and field sports at school, and competing in running sports. They also recommend that you limit your child’s training intensity and regularity when your child is going through considerable physical changes due to puberty. Your child is more at risk for suffering muscular and skeletal injuries during this period.

By working through the research, we can see that if your child is capable and willing to jog, they should be encouraged to do so. When you see that your child is incapable of jogging for long distances or not at all, it could be that their bodies are just not capable, at least until puberty arrives. 

Sound advice regarding this latter situation would be to encourage them to run and jog via short fun runs, participating in running sports like basketball, soccer, and baseball, and entering themselves in their school’s track and field events. The emphasis should be on participation and not results.

How Do I Start My Child Running?

It should not be difficult at all. Children are prone to start running at a very young age; it’s in our design. The trick is to keep them running, and parents typically achieve this by making the running exercise fun. Children love doing fun activities. Your goal as a parent is to do just this, encouraging them to have fun and run.

We found that by using something like parkrun, it added an element of motivaiton for our son, as he wanted to run with some of his friends doing it. My advice would be to try and convince a group of kids to start it at the same time.

It’s worth mentioning that you need to be able to complete the course as well, that’s 5km for a parkrun or 2km for a junior parkrun. That’s one of the requirements.

Junior parkrun
Our son completing his first 2k junion parkrun in 2020

Whether your child is a self-driven runner or needs some motivation to be active, the following steps could help with this regard and hopefully keep or start them running:

Step 1: Start With Regular Family Walks

Walking is an excellent way to get your child running. Prioritize a family walk every couple of days and make it mandatory. During these walks, encourage your children to race you. Short bursts to the upcoming lamp pole or running when you are a few yards from the shop are ways to get the running ball rolling. The winner receives their favorite ice cream.

As the walk progresses, the running part will automatically increase during these sessions; make sure to change the scenery every so often. When you find that the children are only walking to catch their breath, you know that your plan is working. 

It is advisable to have regular rest days incorporated into this routine, not to bore your children, making it feel like a routine rather than an adventure. When they have shown that they are into the running bit and have obtained a good fitness level, it’s time to present the next step.

Step 2: Running Games

Children love learning and playing new games. Fun is what their young lives are all about, and it is up to you to teach them some fun running games that will keep them active. They will probably ask you to play it with them, forcing you to work on your fitness levels. One stone, two birds!

Here are a few examples of easy running games that you can teach them:

1) Soccer

A straightforward and popular game to teach your children is soccer. Start by marking two goal areas on opposite sides of the playing pitch. Assign a goalie to each team, and make up equal teams from the remaining children. Explain the basics of the game,  like how to score a goal. Hand them the ball and let them run and play.

2) Tag-Your-It

In this classic children’s game, somebody will be “it.” The child who is “it” will have to tag another child not to be “it” anymore. This game involves a lot of running and laughing. Incentivize the game by rewarding the child who has been tagged “it” the least number of times as an added fun element.

3) Water Balloon Dodgeball

This game will get them running and adds water to the equation. Purchase medium-sized balloons and will them with water. Choose two captains who will proceed choosing their respective teams. Flip a coin to see which team will be “throwers” and which team will be the “dodgers.” The “throwers” team will throw the other team until all of their players have taken a hit. The roles will then reverse when this has happened. Be sure to have some refreshments ready for in-between role changes.

Step 3: Fun Runs

Entering local family fun runs or even famous outer state ones is the following step. These fun runs are a fantastic experience for the whole family. It indeed caters to fun-seeking children and makes adults feel like children for a short while—a win-win scenario for all. Start by entering the family into local fun runs and encourage your children to enter into their school’s track and field sporting events.

Here are examples of some popular fun runs:

1) The Color Run

It is a race for adults and children, held across various cities across the U.S. Organizers self-proclaimed this as the “Happiest 5K race on the planet”. The course includes fun activities and music, and the best part is that you will be sprayed with paint in all colors of the rainbow for every kilometer you finish.

2) Splash Dash

This race is held in Dallas, Texas, known as “America’s wettest 5K Race”. Adults and children will take on a waterpark adventure course and will be squirted by water guns along the way. The after-party includes zip-lining, music, and treats.

Can A 4-Year-Old Run?  

How to stop your 4-year-old from running all the time would be a better question. Like us, most parents get tired by just looking at their 4-year-old, and the energy that such a small body can produce is hard to believe.

According to one of the largest running organizations in America, The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), children under 5-years-old should only be competing or running in fun runs that vary from a couple of yards to 400 meters. The above recommendation from them does not indicate that your child cannot run long distances.

The wonderful thing about children is that they will stop running when they get tired. Yes, your 4-year-old can run; the distance is up to them.

How Long Does It Take A Child To Run 2KM?

Running times will differ from one child to the next. Children who are training to run longer distances will have a definite advantage over children who are not used to these longer distances. If your child is physically more mature than others, they will run a 2km distance much quicker than some less physically developed children.

Studies show that a 12-year-old boy running a mile distance in 8 minutes 40 seconds will put him in the 50th percentile compared to other boys his age. Any improvement at this time will put him in the top half of his age class. The best time that a 12-year-old can expect is 6 minutes which will put him in the 100th percentile.

So, a 12-year-old boy that can run a 2km race in 10 minutes 10 seconds will place in the 50th percentile of his age group. Any time faster than this is considered better than average.

Conclusion

The main thing is that your child can start jogging at any age. If they are physically ready and their mindset is strong, let them run. When it comes to the puberty stage, be mindful of the amount and intensity of their exercises, as they can suffer injuries and skeletal damage.

Pre-puberty, it is advised that children participate in fun runs and school track and field competitions and not participate in regular or specialized training until after puberty. Their bodies will be more adapt to low-intensity training after the puberty stage.

Get involved in your children’s running life by introducing them to running games and entering the family in fun runs. Motivating your child to run is the right thing to do. However, pushing them too hard will typically put them off running, so try to find the right balance.

References

When to start training children for distance running  HYPERLINK “https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/when-to-start-training-children-for-distance-running”– HYPERLINK “https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/when-to-start-training-children-for-distance-running” Human Kinetics

What distance can my child run safely? (omnirunning.com)

Good Mile Time for a 12-Year-Old | Livestrong.com

15 Fun Running Games For Kids (momjunction.com)

10 Popular Fun Runs For the Whole Family | MapMyRun

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