Though some runners and fitness gurus may balk at the idea of short sessions of physical activity, there are numerous benefits of short runs with kids.
What is considered a ‘short’ run varies depending on the person defining the run. However, to me, a short run with my kids is a run less than thirty minutes. It could be a 20 minute run, a 15 minute run, a thirty minute run mixed with a lot of running and walking–even a 10 minute run followed by outside play or games. Of course, my kids are still young–my youngest is six–so the length of a run often depends on moods, abilities on a given day, terrain, trail, and how empty or full a stomach happens to be at the moment.
I am a huge believer that short–even super short runs–are loaded with value. Short runs are also a good incentive to get off the couch; they don’t require a huge mental or physical commitment to make happen, and can be squeezed into your day somewhere.
Here are 7 reasons to lace up your running shoes and love those short runs with kids.
1. Physical activity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” Being physically active plays a big role in preventing and reducing heart disease and stroke risks. The AHA notes that there are health benefits “even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day.” Even 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days a week is said to help overall cardiovascular health.
Getting kids moving and spending less time in front of screens, even if only for a few minutes a day, seems like a positive thing for physical health and mental well-being.
2. Bonding time. Short runs with your child can provide fabulous and fun opportunities for parent-child bonding. My kids often make me laugh so hard it hurts while we run. My 10 year old, who loves science, uses the time to update me about his scientific findings, books, or YouTube science experiment discoveries. My 6 year old loves to run alongside me and talk my ear off about the things he sees or finds along the trail. My 13 year old loves to play games or integrate speed work, such as racing the other kids (or me) from tree-to-tree. Even a short run gives me valuable and priceless moments with my children.
3. Instill the love of running. Short runs can instill and encourage love and enthusiasm for running. A short run allows a child to view the experience as an adventure. A short run is also great for building young runner confidence, as it makes running doable–and an accomplishment.
4. Parents can build short runs into their training. When mom and dad do their own training runs, they can tack short runs onto the beginning or end of their own workouts and invite the kids along. This gives kids the chance to feel like they are training like grown-ups and makes running feel like a big, awesome deal.
5. Low-commitment. Short runs are low commitment. They can be squeezed into the day, after work, before or after homework, on the weekends, pretty much anywhere or anytime mom or dad has a few minutes.
6. Reduces risks. Short runs give kids the chance to acclimate to running, discover a comfortable pace and technique, while building a running base, fitness, and stamina with lower risks of injuries or strains (compared to diving into high intensity or demanding long runs).
7. Connection with Nature. Short runs give kids the chance to connect to nature, the outside world, and greenspace. Studies show that connections with nature help reduce mental health risks, including anxiety and depression. Giving kids space to run wild and free, particularly on a trail, while mom or dad jogs along, is an amazing gift that will shape them long after the run is over.
Why do you love short runs with your kids? Do you think there is value in a short run?