Forget an apple a day, children should be running a mile a day
New research has found that encouraging children to complete a mile of activity every day can help boost fitness levels, improve concentration and combat early signs of obesity.
The ‘Daily Mile’ is a physical activity programme initially promoted by the Scottish Government, but is growing in popularity both nationally and internationally.
The initiative was born in February 2012, when Elaine Wylie, headteacher of St Ninians primary school in Stirling, sent a PE class outside to see if they could run around the playing field. “By the end, most of them were doubled up and had a stitch,” she says. “It was a shocking sight.”
Afterwards, when the teacher asked the class how they thought they had done, the children admitted their performance was terrible. The children took ownership of the problem and decided that they would go outside for 15 minutes every day, to see if they could build up their fitness. A month later, almost all of them could run for 15 minutes without stopping. By the summer, every class was doing it and, soon the ‘Daily Mile’ had been born.
It is anecdotally reported to have a number of physiological benefits including increased physical activity, reduced sedentary behaviour, increased fitness and improved body composition.
The aim is that each day, during class time, pupils run or walk outside for 15 minutes (approximately one mile) at a self-selected pace. The idea is for it to be fun for the children – something that they look forward to, in order to encourage healthy lifelong habits.
Earlier this month, a study was published, providing data to back up the anecdotal evidence about the Daily Mile’s benefits. The research looked at 391 children at two Scottish primary schools over a period of seven months. They found that children who had been completing the activity could run 5% further during a timed run than the other children. These children’s moderate/vigorous physical activity had increased by nine minutes a day, cutting their total sedentary time by 18 minutes.
“Children often learn about healthy eating and the benefits of physical activity at school, but the kids who are doing the Daily Mile aren’t just learning it in their minds; they are learning: ‘This is something I do every day, as part of my day, and this is how it makes me feel,’” says Naomi Brooks, a senior lecturer in sport at the University of Stirling, who led the study.
In the six years since its launch, the Daily Mile has been adopted by half of Scottish primary schools and a quarter of English ones. It is believed to have spread to more than 3,600 primary schools in 35 different countries.
Such is its success, that the Daily Mile Foundation has just launched an adult version, with the hope of inspiring even the busiest of people to incorporate 15 minutes of self-paced walking, jogging or running into their daily lives.
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