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My 6-year old daughter wants to accompany me on my ~3-times-per-week leisurely jog.

We're not talking Marathon training here — It's a social run-walk of a kilometer (0.6 miles) in about 15 minutes, but we've been talking about ramping it up towards 5K (leisurely) over time. She is active, no health problems, she'll get proper shoes and instruction, and we'll do the doctor visit yada-yada.

My question, specifically, is about the repetitive nature of cardiovascular, middle-distance road running; Is it developmentally stage-appropriate for a child: Muscular-skeletal, balance, repetitive stress, etc?

Is there a concern about someone of such a young age getting into running?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Walking is the most natural movement a human can do. Therefore it's no problem to walk for long distances.

Running however, is different. Although we can do it for long distances (+10km), it is not the best thing to do for serveral reasons:

  1. Your cardio vascular system does NOT benefit. Aspecially your heart gets the subject of icreased pressure which can dammage the cells on the heart wall. More info about this in this lecture by cardiologist James O'Keefe
  2. Repetitive movement always is detrimentel for your body. Habit becomes anatomy. Try to avoid repetitive motion as much as you can by taking obstacles during a run or try to put a little play into a running session by balancing on some obstacles or crawling under one.

However it's a good thing that your kid wants to go for a run so embrace it. Just do it in reasonable amounts...

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It's true that running is a poor kind of exercise. HIIT would be the way to go, I just didn't think it likely that the poster would consider that for his 6 yo... – M. Cypher Nov 11 '11 at 12:52

There are no issues with taking your child with you on your run. We're talking about a leisurely jog at a very slow pace across a very short distance here; it certainly doesn't sound like you want your daughter to try out for the next Ironman. When did our society start questioning whether it's okay for children to move around a bit? Of course it's fine. In fact, it would be more harmful if you didn't allow your daughter to participate in such activities. Being active early on can prevent childhood obesity and other health concerns in the future.

Here's a study suggesting what kinds of activity are appropriate for different ages. As you can see, physical activity benefits children of all ages and running is fine even for a 3 year old.

Of course the intensity has to be adjusted to her age, but as long as you don't make your daughter huff and puff until she literally turns blue, there is no risk whatsoever. If the exercise is too much, there will be very obvious signs, such as muscle pain, nausea, dizziness, and so on. If your daughter complains of any such symptoms, acknowledge it, tell her to rest and don't force her to run. Other than that, it's fine.

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I wasn't questioning the benefits of moving around, playing, and generally getting exercise. I'm asking specifically about the repetitive nature of cardiovascular, middle-distance road running; Is it developmentally stage-appropriate for a child: Muscular-skeletal, balance, repetitive stress, etc? The link was helpful. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Nov 9 '11 at 18:24
Ok I see what you mean. I guess I was confused because I'd never consider there'd be anything harmful about it. Generally speaking, if she can do it, there's no harm to it. – M. Cypher Nov 9 '11 at 18:32
I rephrased a bit to clarify. – Robert Cartaino Nov 9 '11 at 18:40

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