5 Ways Running Can Help More Nova Scotian Kids Thrive

A popular quote in the running world is:

“One run can change your day, many runs can change your life.”

No matter your age, this quote speaks the truth. For a veteran runner who has a room full of race medals or a youngster who’s about to run in their first fun run, running can be life-changing.

If you have kids, you’ve likely noticed the amount of time they spend in front of screens. Years ago, kids’ free time was often spent outdoors, playing games, riding bikes, and exploring their surroundings. Screen-time was limited to the odd after-school program and Saturday morning cartoons. How times have changed…

With so many temptations to be sedentary, we have to work extra hard to keep our kids adequately active. Keeping it simple and fun, limiting the need for equipment or facilities are important, as well as ensuring it’s an activity that can be done alone, in groups, or for a lifetime! One of those activities is running. In this blog post, we share some of the benefits of running that can help your kids thrive for years to come:

Running Can Increase Happiness

Running is known to have a direct relationship with our mental well-being. Running is a cardiovascular exercise that quickly nourishes the brain with a rush of blood and that helps you think more clearly. In fact, cardiovascular exercises like running balance out the harmful effects of stress hormones, such as cortisol, by producing endorphins—also known as the happiness hormone. In other words, running is a natural way to counter stress and anxiety.

Therefore, encouraging kids to run—or supporting their desire to do so—can have a positive influence on their happiness, confidence and stress levels.

Running Can Improve Brain Function

Research consistently shows the cognitive benefits associated with physical activity. The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth highlighted the important link between physical activity and brain health. An expert statement associated with the report highlights evidence linking physical activity and improvements in:

  • thinking and learning
  • emotional regulation and self-control
  • problem-solving ability
  • memory
  • brain plasticity – the growth of new brain tissue
  • stress management
  • the ability to deal with anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • self-esteem and  self-worth
  • attention and focus

So more homework isn’t necessarily the key to improved grades. Encourage your kids to be active at recess and during lunch hour. Support your school in offering extra-curricular activities and active classrooms. If these types of activities are not available at your school, talk to the principal to see if parental support might make them possible.

Running Helps Keep Bones & Joints Strong

There are a lot of questions around whether running is good or bad for your joints and knees. A recent study found that the activity may actually benefit your joints and help keep your knees working smoothly.

In addition, a professor and chair of kinesiology at the University of Virginia found that “weight-bearing exercises like running promote greater bone mineral density.” As we age, our bones weaken. But running can help keep the bones of your legs healthy and strong. For kids, who are still physically developing, the benefits of running far outweigh the risks as they’re able to set themselves up for long-term bone strength and joint stability. 

So, make sure your kids spend some time each day on their feet! Some additional activities that help build bone strength are:

  • Hiking
  • Basketball
  • Dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Soccer
  • Playing racquet sports
  • Geocaching
  • Playing outside!

Running Is A Convenient Way To Achieve Important Vigorous Activity

Investing in a gym membership, sports leagues, day camps, after-school programs and other activities to keep your kid fit can add up—not just in terms of cost, but also in terms of stress as you manage busy schedules and dash from one practice to the next.

While those types of extracurricular activities are popular with kids and families today, they can’t compete with running when it comes to convenience. You can run almost anywhere in the province—your backyard, around the block, at a local park—and you only need a pair of sneakers to do it. In fact, Nova Scotia has many  trails where you can hike or run and for those in HRM, check out these great destinations for kids to run including some that are accessible by city bus!   

Running Can Improve Your Kids’ Cardiovascular Health

Running at a young age inspires healthy habits that become positive lifestyles in adulthood, which can help your kids avoid things like heart disease down the road.

A study conducted in 2014 suggested that running could lead to a 45 percent decrease in the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. The authors of the study reported that “runners on average lived three years longer compared to non-runners.” Further research found that running also led to lower rates of stroke, cancer and metabolic diseases like diabetes.

Conclusion

No matter your age, fitness level or location, running can be a great way to get and stay fit, improve your health and mental well-being, and most importantly, have a whole lot of fun! If you’re interested in learning about some local fun runs that happen throughout the year, check them out here!

And if you want to learn more about Kids Run Club, check this out!