Jogging with Children: How to Make It Fun and Rewarding

What parents should consider when jogging with their children

Mother jogging with daughter

Exercise is healthy - this is just as true for children as it is for adults. If you're a mom or dad slipping into your running shoes, try taking your kid along for the run with you. But is running healthy for children? At what age "should" kids be running? And what mistakes should parents avoid at all costs? You can read the answers here.

The most important up front

You don't have to register your child for your local children's marathon (although it would certainly be an exciting experience for your kid). But the basic rule is: running is healthy! So why not go jogging with your kids?

  • Above all, it's important that you adapt the training to be kid-friendly. Jogging with kids is more "play" than "training" - always keep this in mind. That way your kid can learn to associate having fun with this sport, which will help him stick to this habit growing up.
  • Jogging in and of itself should not be the goal with children. Jogging, when in the context of another sport or playing on the playground is usually the way to go.
  • The intensity of running should always be adapted to one's age. You can train speed, coordination and agility with children up to around 13 years old. It only makes sense to train endurance and strength from puberty onwards (from 14/15 years).
  • Remember to encourage your kid to drink enough water. Children do not yet have a pronounced feeling of thirst, but need more fluids than adults when playing sport.

You can read here detailed tips on jogging with kids below, or just jump directly to the section that you're most interested in:

Jogging with kiddos: what you need to know

Considering taking your kid out for a run? That's great! Here's what you should keep in mind as a parent.


Is jogging healthy for children?

Yes, jogging or running is generally healthy for children and satisfies their natural urge to move and exercise.

Experts emphasize that running meets children's natural urge to move and - in moderation - is by no means harmful. On the contrary!

Children run across a meadow
Children love to be on the move.

Reasons why kids should be jogging

  • Running promotes endurance and therefore helps them stay active.
  • Running supports children's muscles and coordination.
  • Running helps against becomming overweight.
  • In addition, your children developes mental fortitude through training, which is an essential traight that we all need more of in life
  • With this very question in mind, notable running professional Herbert Steffny asks why more parents don't go running with their children: „The urge to exercise is something that comes natural to children, which tends to be neglected in today's society. You could ask the question the other way round: Will your child be harmed if you don't encourage them to live an active lifestyle?“

    And Bruno Kunz, head of Sports at the Swiss Athletics Association in Bern, explains „Basically, it makes sense for children to learn to jog a certain distance in one go. On the one hand, good stamina is part of a good basic condition, and on the other hand, training develops the mental ability not immediately give up when the goings gets tough.“

    What parents should avoid

    As sensible as it is to get your child interested in running, parents musn't overdue it. Running for the fun of it is the motto here - parent's wish that the child become an elite athlete are selfish wishes that should not dictate a child's upbringing.

    With this in mind, Herbert Steffny, who won bronze at the European Championship in the marathon in 1986, warns: „The biggest danger here is that parents, coaches or teachers want too much from the young ones. The kids, in turn, become traumatized and lose interest in running. Children rarely overtax themselves.“

    three children in running outfits with medals
    The young stars of tomorrow? First and foremost, children should have fun running.

    Of course, this does not mean that registering your kid for a children's marathon is taboo - on the contrary: if your kid enjoys taking part in such a race, go ahead! There is sure to be a children's race near you - with a child-friendly course and divided into age groups.

    One-sided training:
    Don't just focus on training for your children - combine running with different sports. This is because one-sided exercise can damage your child's joints. It is therefore best to focus on a mixture of speed and endurance, strength and skill. For example, break up your running session at a playground where kids can run and climb.

    When can I start taking my kids jogging?

    You can take your child jogging with you from the age of five. The important thing is that running should be designed in a playful way for younger children aged around five to eight.

    Mother and child jogging
    If your child is five years or older, you can take him or her running with you.

    Babys up to 1 year old should not be taken out for a run!! This is because their spine is not yet able to bear weight.

    When does running training make sense for children?

    Special running training should only begin starting at 15 years old. From this age, your child will be able to cope well with the physical and mental strain of training.

    Kids between the ages of 13 and 14, on the other hand, are still in the middle of the growth phase - their muscles and bones cannot cope well with the extreme strain of intensive running training.

    How far can I jog with my kids?

    For kids under eight, you shouldn't run further than 1 mile. For five to eight year olds, jogging should be playful. Monotonous continuous running bores children. Walking, running and standing provide variety when running and activate more muscle groups.

    Older children between nine and twelve can manage distances up to around 3 miles three times a week.

    Family running together in nature
    The running distance should depend on the age of the children.

    Tips for training running with children

    If you're planning on taking your kids with you on your next run, these tips will help you:

    • Run your age as rule of thumb: A seven-year-old kid should run for seven minutes at a time while a ten year old runs for 10 minutes. If this works well, you can extend the running time accordingly.
    • Your ability to talk is a good indication of pace. The same rule of thumb applies to jogging with children: You shouldn't be running so fast that a conversation is difficult.
    • Pay attention to your kiddo: Children usually stop on their own when they've had enough - parents should definitely take this seriously and not "force" your child to keep going.
    • Interval training is well suited for children, as the repeated alternation of running and resting prevents overstraining.
    • Encourage your child to drink! Children do not yet have a pronounced feeling of thirst - but are more prone to dehydration than adults. So take regular drinking breaks when jogging with your children.

    How to create a kid-friendly running routine

    To make sure your kids don't get bored while jogging, you should take a playful approach to the running session. Here are our tips:

    • Be sure to vary the route
    • Music or stories can help children stay occupied and have fun.
    • Turn running into a game. There are many ways to motivate children to run through play:
      • Play catch
      • Race - "Who is the fastest to tree 100 meters ahead?"
      • Count: How many people with red clothes/dogs/birds can you spot on the running lap? Who has counted more at the end?
      • Design a running routine: Two children run a fixed, short circuit together. One child is allowed to decide how they want to move, for example: Hopping like a frog, jumping, hopping, passing a ball to each other. On the next lap, the other child can choose the type of running.
    • It is better to run short laps, especially at the beginning. This gives your children the opportunity to get off at any time.
    • Very important when jogging with children: Parents must adapt to the rhythm of the children, not the other way around.

    Family with several generations jogging
    All together: Jogging with the whole family can be motivating for children.

    The right running clothes for kids - and the whole family

    For your next running session to go smoothly, you'll need the right equipment.

    Children's running shoes are particularly important. When shopping, pay particular attention to the sole. Is it flexible? An overly stiff sole impedes a natural rolling movement from the heel to the big toe. It's best to seek advice from a specialist to find the ideal running shoes for your kid.

    If your kiddos enjoy jogging or even want to take part in a children's run, it makes sense that they wear their own children's jersey. Look for soft, breathable material, that's comfortable to wear.

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    Jogging with your kid: the kid decides where to go

    No matter if you need to just keep your kids busy or if you want to teach them the healthy habbits of running: If you are jogging with your child, you as an adult will have to change up your routine. Depending on the age of your child, you will only be able to jog a fraction of the usual distance, but you will have to take more (drinking) breaks or even return home early.

    A tip: If you're reluctant to slow down your running pace to include children in your routine, just let your kiddo ride his bike alongside you. With this method, you and your kid can get the exercise you need.

    Child cycles while father jogs
    A good alternative to jogging with a child: let your child cycle alongside you.

    Important: even with this workout variant, you will still need to modify your workout to adjust to your kid. Expect your child to want to take short breaks, for example to pick flowers along the way, or to get bored easily. Be ready for anything.

    No matter which option you choose: As long as you respond to your child's needs and make jogging child-friendly, there is a good chance that you will get your child excited about running and exercise in the long term.

    We hope you enjoy jogging - with or without your kiddos with you.

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    Image Credit: Image 1: Gettyimages/petrenkod; Image 2: Gettyimages/ Tomwang112; Image 3: Gettyimages/E+/RichVintage; Image 4: Gettyimages/ Liderina; Image 5: Gettyimages/E+/FatCamera; Image 6-8: owayo; Image 9: Gettyimages /vm; Image 10: Gettyimages/E+/CasarsaGuru