As this series comes to a end, it is necessary to briefly address children, education, and socioeconomic status. Children who live in lower income families may lack access to quality fitness and nutritional options. Consequently, these kids may be more at risk for poor eating habits and sedentary activities which can lead to obesity and its related complications. Obesity rates in children seem to be on rise and obese children are more likely to become obese adults if interventions do not occur. For that reason, free or inexpensive community- or school-based programs that teach children to engage in regular physical activity are worth examining and implementing across the nation.
One such organization is called Marathon Kids. Marathon Kids provides programs for walking and running as forms of physical activity. This organization also helps children develop healthier eating patterns. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation examined this organization's impact on ethnically diverse fourth and fifth graders from low-income schools. The foundation found that the children who participated in the program were more likely to participate in other running activities. Those kids also reported greater feelings of positivity toward exercise and had large program completion rates. "Data from the Houston and Austin-are Marathon Kids show us that low-cost, community-school approaches from promoting physical activity and healthy eating during school and at home can be successful," said Dr. Springer, assistant professor at The University of Texas School of Public Health. Marathon Kids seems to be effective in terms of improving children's feelings toward exercise, teaching them healthy eating habits, and guiding them in an effective training program that can prepare them to walk a marathon.
The website recommends and implements a six-month training program where the kids increase their walking mileage by 0.25-mile increments each training day, track their own progress, learn healthy eating habits, and work in a school garden. Programs like this one are more holistic and incorporating education into a regular physical activity program can be of great benefit for communities and schools across the United States.
To conclude, based on upon the research, children do not assume any additional or greater risks from training for marathons than they do from participating in other forms of more strenuous activity. Provided they are properly supervised in terms of nutritional intake, overall health and fitness, mental well-being, and the training regimen, I recommend that children be allowed to participate in marathon race events.
Marathon Kid News: Michael & Susan Dell Foundation Report on Marathon Kids.
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation - Study Shows Participation in Marathon Kids Program Makes Children More Physically Active and Eat Healthier.