Spring is here, bringing with it warmer winds and later days for antsy children to get outside to burn some energy! The start of spring is a great time to reestablish healthy habits including regular physical activity and active play. It's good time to sign up your child up for a structured activity. Having a pre-planned and already organized activity is helpful when establishing an active lifestyle—it'll be easier for your child to stick with it.

With childhood obesity rates continuing to rise in most age groups across Philadelphia, the need for healthy lifestyle options in the community continues to be critical. One option is the Healthy Kids Running Series, which provides children with a positive, educational, and fun experience in the world of running. The Healthy Weight Program at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia initiated HKRS in West Philadelphia in April 2014. The HWP will be running its sixth series and 85 percent of the cost is subsidized making the total cost of the 5 week program, $5.

The HKRS takes place in the spring starting in April and fall for children in Pre-K to eighth grade. The series is held for five weeks and each week there are age appropriate running events, including the 50 yard dash, 75 yard dash, the quarter-mile, half-mile and one-mile runs. Children earn points each week and at the end of the series, the boy and girl with the most points, in their respective age division, receives a trophy.

In order to encourage children of all abilities to participate, an emphasis is placed on the process of taking part, regardless of ability. Each child will receive a medal at the end of the series for completing the course and trying his or her best. It is such a joy to see the smile on a child's face after receiving a much earned medal! For a session, the program takes one hour and includes a warm-up, the series of races, and a healthy snack at the conclusion. Children are encouraged to run their best race each week and have fun doing it!

The program will give children a chance to explore the world of running and fitness, while teaching them how to develop a healthy, active lifestyle that can be maintained throughout their lives. Introducing children to a wide variety of physical activities will help cultivate their different abilities, likes and passions. Running is often thought of as something you do if you are on the track or cross country team, but the skills learned in running such as how to pace yourself, proper breathing techniques, competing, and not giving up – are all skills that can be used in a variety of athletics and everyday life.

We are so thrilled to be able to run our sixth HKRS with the help and support of Children's, the HWP, and all our many enthusiastic volunteers! You can sign up for the HKRS in West Philadelphia here. For other locations in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, go the Healthy Kids Running Series website. The HKRS is ran all over the country in different communities.

Stay tuned for my next blog with tips to help your child prepare for spring sports like running.

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