Going the distance

Is competitive running the healthiest choice for children?

It’s not a good feeling to be passed in a race by a child.

I was recently running a 5k race and was feeling pretty good about my progress until I looked down and realized a five or six year old child and her mother were quickly dashing past me.

Needless to say, my confidence in my running ability was shot down the drain as I discovered my accomplishment of running this race was attainable by the younger counterparts of our society.

Despite causing me embarrassment and shame, this incident also got me thinking about the ethics of children in races like this. I kept asking myself why I objected to the fact that this kid was running a 5k when other children are in sports such as ballet and soccer at a younger age.

To me, the main difference between peewee soccer and simply running is that soccer or other team sports are exactly that: team sports. Children involved in these activities are making friends, getting healthy exercise and learning to work on a team. However, racing is much different.

Although it may involve the family and some close friends, running is not much of a social event. The children usually run because the parents do, which means they are not meeting other kids or learning about working on a team.

My other objection to having children running competitively is that running is very stressful on your body, especially if one has poor form. These kids who are four, five or six and running are putting tremendous stress on their bodies from a very young age.

Their bones, joints and whole bodies are still growing and developing, and it does not seem healthy to be putting such strain on their bodies.

Although most kids are generally active and enjoy playing running games such as tag, running for three or more miles on concrete is much different than running around for ten minutes in the back yard.

It’s good that these parents are getting their children into healthy activities from a young age, but I can’t help but wonder if running is the healthiest choice of exercise.

When I become a parent, I’ll be much more likely to encourage my children to play t-ball or soccer. Not only are team sports better for socialization, but also help develop good hand-eye and foot-eye coordination.

Running is something that is present in almost all sports, so it is not as if children who aren’t racing competitively never get to run. Children can be learning other skills, such as kicking and throwing, while running a healthy amount.

Although running is a very healthy, and for some fun, activity, it is better suited for middle- school aged kids than young children. Older children have better developed bones and muscles, so they are not putting as much strain on their knees and hips.

Running is one of the best exercises and can be very personally rewarding, but parents should not encourage their children to run competitively until they are physically stronger and have tried a variety of sports to discover what they like.