How to get the whole family running

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Here's a true story: when I was 13, I was inactive, overweight and a poor student. My parents persuaded me to join my school cross-country team to get some exercise. The interactions and positive experiences I had while running changed my life. I had more energy, I was happier and I started doing better in school (eventually, I even made it to the Olympics!).

Here's how to safely get children of all ages excited about running - for life.

Ages 6 and under

How far? Not very. At this age, playing chase or racing Dad to the letter box is a great way to introduce kids to running.

Run/walk ratio: Run segments should be no longer than 10 to 20 seconds. Walk one to two minutes between each.

Ages 7 to 9

How far? Start with a quarter of a mile. Every week, add a minute or two until you both can complete a mile. If your kid is having a blast, keep adding time until you're up to 3.5 miles - at that point you can talk about run/walking a 5K together.

Run/walk ratio: Jog for 10 seconds and walk for 40 seconds. Each week, increase the run portion by five seconds and decrease the walk portion by five seconds until you're at a 30/30 ratio.

Ages 10 to 12

How far? Begin with half a mile. Each week, run an additional quarter of a mile. Build up to whatever mileage feels comfortable - most kids this age can run up to a 10K.

Run/walk ratio: Start with one minute running/one minute walking. If that seems too easy, raise it to 2:1 - work up to 4:1 if they continue to feel comfortable.