What makes kids want to get outside and exercise? The number-one response: “My parents do it.”

I had the privilege to speak for the second straight year at the Boston Marathon Sports Medicine Conference hosted by the American Medical Athletic Association (AMAA). Last year, my presentation was on barefoot running (the hot topic of 2011). This year, I spoke on healthy aerobic development for life and the work of  legendary New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard, whose influence brought “jogging” to America in  1960s. This took running from a competitive sport to a fun daily habit of activity for the masses. My friend, 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist and 1984 Boston champ, Lorraine Moller applied the historical perspective and I spoke on the modern application at the conference.

This was the 41st annual presentation of this conference. Much of what we now know in the field of endurance medicine was first presented at this conference and guidelines for safety have been changed as a direct result. Although the most immediate topic of interest was heat and hydration management in anticipation of record-setting warmth during the race, a big theme coming out of the conference was how we engage youth in the vigorous life.

One presenter shared data on what makes kids want to get outside and exercise. The number one response: “My parents do it.”

Yes indeed…a fun run!

A big goal of the AMAA is to recreate family focused fitness with a focus on youth. They are sponsoring a national Run a Mile Day May 12. Our community of Shepherdstown in West Virginia  has  invited all children 10 and under to our free 1-mile fun run at the local Harpers Ferry Half Marathon. For children 10 through 18, we will offer free entry to our 4 mile trail run/walk through the School House Ridge Trails of Harpers Ferry National Park.

Having parents and their children share the experience of running or walking together is important.Because of changes in diet and lifestyle, kids are increasingly at risk for diseases that can significantly diminish the quality, productivity and length of their lives.

In West Virginia, close to 40 percent of elementary-school children are overweight or obese.

An obese child has high odds to become an obese adult, up to an 80% chance if you are an obese teenager.Type 2 diabetes is expected to afflict over one in three children born in 2000 due to poor diet and lack of physical activity.

Health-care expenses and productivity losses related to obesity problems cost Americans more than $100 billion annually.

Currently, obesity-related illnesses cause some 300,000 deaths a year. Inactivity and poor diet will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

The Harpers Ferry Half-Marathon is historic and scenic.

A little more about the Harpers Ferry race  course: Race committee member Lois Turco, chair of Two Rivers Heritage Partnership, is working to establish the region as a National Heritage Area and along with Harpers Ferry National Park Chief Historian Dennis Frye see this event introducing both visitors and the local community to not just the beauty, but to the history lessons they cover on the route.

“We wish for the runners and walkers to keep returning after the event to learn more about our region’s story,” says Turco.

I run the course almost daily over lunch breaks at my job at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine.

This is truly an event of historic proportions. Every time I run this route there is something new for the senses and something challenging. Some of the major historical sites covered in the event include John Brown’s Fort, The Armory of Virginius Island, Bolivar Heights, School House Ridge and the pre-Civil War towns of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry.

We have runners from neighboring states participate in the Harpers Ferry event. Many will be bringing their kids who will be taking part in the 1-mile fun run.