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Run with Me: Get Your Kids Up, Out, and on the Path to Fitness

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Running is fun, easy, and something you can do with your kids. Here's how to get your kids exercising in a way that makes it fun for the whole family.

Inspiring Your Kids to Be Healthy

When I come in from a run, my three children ask how far I went, and they sometimes help me track my progress. I'd always hoped that seeing me exercise would motivate them to do the same.

Nick, my oldest, was the first to follow in my footsteps, when he was in kindergarten. It started with the one-quarter-mile Jogfest sponsored by our elementary school; by sixth grade he'd mastered the 5K. He was a natural -- always among the first finishers.

Running is something I can do with Nick, who is now 15. He's too fast to work out with me regularly, but we've done a couple of races. It's a way for us to connect and to participate in a healthy activity.

Kids on the Go

Running is great exercise for kids. "It burns calories, builds muscle, and helps create a strong cardiovascular system," says Don Kardong, an Olympic marathoner and coauthor of Children's Running: A Guide for Parents and Kids, published by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA).

To inspire your children to put on their sneakers, be a running role model. Watching you do it -- and seeing the benefits you get from being fit -- is likely to make them want to try it. Show them how exhilarating running can be by taking them to a race (find one near you at rrca.org) or a high school track meet. Once they're ready to hit the road, ease them into it. "Start out slowly, build up gradually, and allow kids to stop and rest anytime they want," says Andrew Gregory, MD, an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Jean Knaack, executive director of the RRCA, has figured out what gets her kids going. A couple of nights a week she takes her 6-year-old daughter, Jena, and her 5-year-old son, James, for a run around the block. She makes it a game. "I'll tell them to run to the lamppost and freeze," Knaack says. "From there I'll say, 'Race to the blue mailbox.' That keeps them engaged."

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msminichino wrote:

This is a great article! I recently signed up for my first 5k and my 10 year old daughter wanted to sign up too. I didn't know how much or how far was safe for her younger body. Thanks to this article, I now have a better understanding of what is ok for her. Hopefully this spring we will both be completing our first 5k race together!

3/28/2011 02:03:57 PM Report Abuse

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