Running For Children
Children and adolescents (6–17 years) should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily, and running can partly fill this requirement. Here are some tips to help meet your child’s running needs.

By: Body - Physical Training - 11/15/2018

​Children and adolescents (6–17 years) should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily, and running can partly fill this requirement. The guidelines for training children to run are vague and somewhat different than for adults, and the jury is still out as to how much running is safe and healthy for young kids and adolescents. Much of it depends on the child. Here are some tips to help meet your child's running needs.

Set personal goals. Your child can't predict how other runners will perform in a race, so shoot for a specific time—not first place—when setting a goal. Running programs should be child driven, not parent driven; they're not practicing for Ranger school or BUD/S. Your child should be having fun!

Set appropriate training frequency and duration. Children younger than 14 should train about 3 times a week, increasing to a frequency of 5 times a week for children 14 and older. Durations vary depending on the runner, and again experts don't agree how long is long enough or too long for younger kids.

Set appropriate intensity of training. Start your child's training at low intensity for 4 weeks, and then increase at a rate of no more than 10% a week. How do you know what's "low intensity"? Try the talk test. At a low to moderate intensity, your child can carry on a full conversation throughout a running exercise. With vigorous activity, he or she will be able to say only a few words without stopping to catch his or her breath. And remember that your child should always set the pace. Increase the intensity of training only if your child expresses a desire to do so.

Age-appropriate race frequency and distances. A typical race frequency is anywhere from 1–2 races per week (typically road races occur on weekends, and sometimes school races are scheduled during the week). Some experts recommend that children under 16 should not run any more than a 10 k (6.2 mi) race. A sports medicine professional should tailor a program if your child wants to run farther than 6.2 miles at any one time. General recommendations for maximum race distance by age are:

  • 2 miles if younger than 9

  • 3 miles for ages 9–11

  • 6 miles for ages 12–15

  • Half marathon (13.1 miles) for ages 15–16

  • 18 miles for age 17

  • Full marathon (26.2 miles) for 18 and older


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