- Children Fit For Life
- The Daily Mile
- The history of The Daily Mile
- The benefits of The Daily Mile
- The Daily Mile makes primary school children more active, less sedentary and improves their fitness and body composition: a quasi-experimental pilot study
- Does running a mile a day really improve children’s lives?
- There’s a simple way to make children more fit. It’s called the Daily Mile
Children Fit For Life
- Sport Ireland is delighted to support The Daily Mile through the Local Sports Partnership network. The Daily Mile is an excellent example of collaboration between a National Governing Body for Sport and the Local Sports Partnerships at a local level, and I am heartened that over 180 schools have already embraced this wonderful initiative. I look forward to the continued roll- the initiative across the country in the months ahead. John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland
- The overall simplicity of The Daily Mile is to be admired. There is no extra cost, no extra equipment or sports kit. This initiative is all about getting children out into the fresh air and being active. There is no emphasis on winning or competition; it is simply about having fun. Brendan Griffin TD, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport
- A lot of time in school is spent indoors and sitting down so the chance to go outside every day for just 15 minutes and run a mile is sure to boost the mental and physical health of children throughout Ireland. I strongly recommend that all schools, teachers and students grasp this opportunity and make The Daily Mile work in your school. Sonia O'Sullivan, Olympic 5,000m Silver Medallist, European & World Champion and Irish women’s mile record holder with 4:17:25 (Oslo 1994).
- The Daily Mile is a brilliantly simple idea. I love it. Since talking to the principal of the primary school who started this in the UK I've been telling anyone who'd listen about The Daily Mile. It'd be great to think that this would be done in every primary school in Ireland. Good luck to everybody involved and remember you'll never regret going for a run. Ray D'Arcy, Irish television and radio presenter.
- I’m delighted that The Daily Mile will soon be up and running in Primary Schools all around Ireland. It is important that all schools around the country take part in this fantastic initiative as it will educate children the importance of keeping fit and healthy from a young age. Catherina McKiernan, Olympian, 1998 London marathon winner and 1994 European Cross-Country Champion.
- “As a primary school teacher I have first-hand experience of the outstanding benefits that this initiative can bring to a school, enhancing the physical health and overall wellbeing of participating students, while simultaneously impacting positively on learning and academic achievement in the classroom. I would love for other schools to similarly benefit from this outstanding initiative.” Seán Hehir, Primary school teacher and twice Irish National Marathon Champion & International Athlete.
- It’s great for the kids to get out and do a bit of exercise. It gets them away from the screens but also motivates them and I understand from speaking to the teachers that when they come in from that they are invigorated and motivated and their concentration levels are better. There’s so much positivity coming it and I just think it’s a brilliant initiative and long may it continue! Nial Ring, Former Lord Mayor of Dublin
- I am thrilled to see Athletics Ireland leading the way on The Daily Mile Primary School initiative that will be a sure winner nationwide. The idea that Primary School children will complete a mile every day during the school terms is something that I am happy to support and endorse. My heartiest congratulations to all involved in the project Dr Ronnie Delany, Olympic 1500m Champion, Melbourne, 1956.
Children fit for life
The Daily Mile is physical, emotional, social and emotional health and well-being
The Daily Mile
The aim of the Daily Mile is to improve the physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing of our children – regardless of age or personal circumstances.
It is a profoundly simple but effective concept, which any primary school can implement. Its impact can be revolutionary – improving children’s fitness as well as their concentration levels, mood, behaviour and general wellbeing.
The Daily Mile is successful because it is simple and free:
- It takes place over just 15 minutes, with children averaging a mile each day.
- Children run outside in the fresh air – and the weather is a benefit, not a barrier.
- There’s no set up, tidy up, or equipment required.
- Children run in their uniforms so no kit or changing time is needed.
- It’s social, non-competitive and fun.
- It’s fully inclusive; every child, whatever their circumstances, age or ability, succeeds at The Daily Mile.
The Daily Mile wants every child to have the opportunity to do a Daily Mile at primary school and are now working to build a Daily Mile community with schools, local councils, sports bodies and other supporters in the UK and beyond.
The history of The Daily Mile
Elaine Wyllie, former Headmistress of St Ninian's Primary School in Stirling started The Daily Mile when she realised that the pupils at her school were unfit.
Elaine started going outside with her classes to run around the school field for just 15 minutes a day, to increase their fitness and concentration.
On measuring the circumference of the school path, five laps was was one mile. Thus The Daily Mile was born!
There are now over 1000 schools in the UK that have implemented The Daily Mile.
The benefits of The Daily Mile
The Daily Mile has numerous benefits to children, whether they run, jog or walk:
- Within 4 weeks, children who do The Daily Mile become fit.
- The 15 minute break from lessons is invigorating and leaves children (and teachers!) more focused and ready to learn.
- The time spent outside, in all weathers, helps children become better engaged with the outdoors and aware of their surroundings.
- The Daily Mile is non-competitive, fully inclusive, and the children have fun!
- The Daily Mile is also a social occasion, and improves relationships, giving children the opportunity to talk to their peers and teachers in a way they might not in the classroom.
- The Daily Mile builds teamwork and leadership skills, with children helping and encouraging their peers.
- Children bring the benefits home, eating and sleeping better and encouraging their families to get active together.
- The Daily Mile builds self-esteem and confidence, improving children’s perception of exercise for life.
The Daily Mile is critical to reducing childhood inactivity and obesity. Children are getting fatter, younger, and we need to stop this in its tracks. Early scientific studies show that the level of obesity at St Ninian’s School (the first school to introduce The Daily Mile) is around 45% less than the national average.
Find out more here (http://thedailymile.co.uk)
The Daily Mile makes primary school children more active, less sedentary and improves their fitness and body composition: a quasi-experimental pilot study
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Does running a mile a day really improve children’s lives?
It was an 80-year-old volunteer who prompted Elaine Wylie, the then headteacher of St Ninians primary school in Stirling, to reappraise the fitness of the children in her school.
“Your children are not fit,” the volunteer told her. Wylie was stung by the comment, even though she suspected it was true. The PE teacher confirmed it.
“Most children these days are exhausted by the warm-up,” she said.
That same afternoon, Wylie decided to send a PE class she was supervising 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, Wylie asked the class how they thought they had done. They admitted that they were terrible – a pivotal moment because, from that point on, the children took ownership of the problem.
Together, they decided that they would go outside for 15 minutes every day and see if they could build up their fitness. That was in February 2012. A month later, almost all of them could run for 15 minutes without stopping.
By the summer, every class was doing it and, soon afterwards, the nursery children joined in, too. The Daily Mile had been born.
Since then, this concept of sending children outside during normal lesson time to run or walk laps of the playground for 15 minutes a day has spread to more than 3,600 primary schools in 35 different countries. Yet, while there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence about its benefits, until now hard data has been lacking.
Earlier this month, a study was published that looked at 391 children at two Scottish primary schools. Seven months after starting the Daily Mile, children who had been doing it could run 5% further during a timed shuttle-run test than the other children.
They had increased their moderate/vigorous physical activity by nine minutes a day and had cut their total sedentary time by 18 minutes.
Elaine Wylie … where it all started. Photograph: Stuart Wallace
The children also experienced a 4% reduction in the size of their skin folds, suggesting that they were becoming leaner. This is important because 30% of children between the ages of seven and 11 in England and Scotland are overweight or obese; this is associated with a greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life.
“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.
Even so, initiatives such as the Daily Mile are only part of the solution.
The Department of Health says that children over the age of five should be engaging in at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day – yet only a fifth of children aged between five and 15 achieve this.
Moderate activities could include walking to school, riding a scooter, or cycling, while vigorous ones include playing chase, football, dancing or swimming.
If that sounds a lot to you, you are not alone: in a recent nationwide survey, a third of parents underestimated how much exercise children need. “Parents and children felt that the biggest barrier to being more active was a lack of time,” says Susan Coan at Leeds Beckett University, who led the study.
“From our research in this area, the main piece of advice would be for families to find ways of being active together that work for them.
Small changes are more sustainable and can make a real difference – for example, walking part of the way to school or playing active video games as part of children’s screen time.”
One reason exercise is considered so important for children is because it helps establish lifelong habits.
“If you are generally active as a youngster, it has a moderately positive effect in terms of your intention and commitment to being active as an adult,” says Prof Craig Williams, director of the children’s health and exercise research centre at the University of Exeter. There are also other long-term consequences.
Late childhood and early adolescence are critical times for laying down bone, which reaches its peak density in our 20s, declining thereafter. The higher your bone density during youth, the lower your risk of fractures and osteoporosis in later life.
“The idea is that we try to put as much bone as possible ‘in the bank’ as youngsters,” says Williams. “The mechanical stimulation of our body weight going through our bones, muscles and tendons when we jump up and down, stimulates our bone cells to grow and lay down new bone.”
There is also some evidence that the fitter you are when you are 18, the less ly you are to have cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, in later life.
Even so, some question the logic of reducing children’s lesson time by 15 minutes each day; surely they could find ways of being more active at other times? Yet, according to a consensus statement released by Williams and 23 other child-health experts in 2016: “Time taken away from lessons for physical activity is time well spent and does not come at the cost of getting good grades. Physical activity has been found to boost young people’s brain development and function, as well as their intellect.” Indeed, in a previous study, Brooks found that a single b exercise left children feeling more awake, increased their attention and verbal memory and improved their feelings of wellbeing.
The fact that the Daily Mile takes place outside could enhance these effects further. “Bright light directly influences and activates areas of the brain that control alertness and cognition,” says Dr Rachel Sharman, a sleep researcher at the University of Oxford.
It can also tweak the timing of the body clock – exposure to bright light during the morning tends to advance the clock, meaning people wake and feel sleepy earlier. “In primary schoolchildren, exercising outdoors for 15 minutes is unly to have much effect because they are already relatively early birds. However, at puberty, the circadian clock delays,” Sharman explains.
“In teenagers, an early morning mile could pull the clock a little earlier, waking the teen up, when their bodies are – from a circadian rhythm perspective – still asleep. In terms of learning, we would then expect the teen to be in a better place, cognitively, to learn in those first few lessons of the day.
Equally, by pulling the clock earlier, a teenager may then find that their body clock signals when it’s time for bed earlier the next night, meaning they get more sleep.”
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.
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.
As for the children of St Ninians, they continue to run outside for 15 minutes a day in all weathers, even though Wylie left the school two years ago. Last year, the primary 6 girls (the equivalent of year 5 in England and Wales) won the Scottish schools cross-country championship.
Wylie’s intention was simply to get the children fit, but what has pleased her most is the levelling effect it appears to have: “It seems that the less fit and more overweight the kids are at the start, the more they benefit,” she says.
Given that obesity is more prevalent among lower socioeconomic classes, interventions such as the Daily Mile could help to close the gap in health inequality between rich and poor. If true, 15 minutes a day would be a small price to pay.
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There’s a simple way to make children more fit. It’s called the Daily Mile
If you haven’t heard of the Daily Mile yet, your time has come. Nowtaking place in 3,600 primary schools each day in 35 countries around the world, it takes children outside during normal lesson time to run or walk laps of the playground for 15 minutes. The ones who run cover around a mile each day.
The initiative has an endearing backstory. It was developed six years ago by St. Ninians Primary School in Stirling in central Scotland after children and teachers felt the pupils needed to be fitter.
Other schools quickly realized the value, and it started to spread. It is now happening in around half of Scottish primaries and a quarter of those in England, along with schools in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal and Australia.
With all this enthusiasm, it was time for researchers to ask the obvious question: Is it really worth doing? We have been part of a collaboration between the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh that has published the first results.
The backdrop to the Daily Mile is a global crisis in childhood physical activity. The World Health Organization recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day — the kind that gets them breath. They should also do some resistance exercise each week to strengthen their muscles. Fewer than 40 percent of children achieve these recommended levels.
Independent of the exercise you do, too much time spent sitting or lying down (while awake) is also bad for your health.
The recommended maximum is two hours of TV per day and limited sitting the rest of the time. Again, fewer than 40 percent of children around the world achieve this.
The healthiest people do high amounts of moderate/vigorous exercise and spend low amounts of time sitting/reclining.
The number of overweight and obese children has increased dramatically in recent years, and lack of exercise and too much sitting around is part of the reason. Overweight kids are at higher risk of diabetes, strokes and heart disease in later years, so this directly affects both their quality of life and potentially their life span.
Equally alarming, children’s physical fitness has significantly declined since at least the 1980s. They can’t run as far without stopping as their parents could.
Governments have introduced various research-led interventions to combat these threats — increasing the intensity of physical education classes, for example — but with mixed success. There are basically two hurdles: Any intervention needs to be something children will keep doing, and it has to improve their health.
The Daily Mile has the attraction of being both simple and designed not by researchers but by a teacher and some children. The fact that so many schools are participating suggests that children keep doing it.
So how about the effect on their health?
Children do the Daily Mile at whatever time of day their teacher chooses. Typically they do a mixture of walking and running, doing laps of a school field or playground in normal school clothes and shoes. Children set their own pace and are free to talk to other pupils or teachers as they go.
Over the course of an academic year, we compared 391 children ages 4 to 12 in two local schools. One school was about to introduce the Daily Mile while the other was not.
At the start and end of the study, we measured each child in the following ways: fitness, physical activity levels and sedentary time, and body fat.
The children in the school that introduced the Daily Mile increased their moderate/vigorous physical activity by nine minutes per day (about 15 percent) and cut their sedentary time by 18 minutes per day (around 6 percent). They saw an increase of about 5 percent in how far they could run, while their skin folds reduced by an average of 4 percent.
Some question the impact of the Daily Mile on lesson time, but there’s little reason for this. We have previously shown in almost 12,000 children that a single b similar exercise made them more awake, increased their attention and verbal memory, and improved their feelings of well-being. We have also heard anecdotal claims about other benefits, such as better sleep and diet.
In short, our results suggest the Daily Mile is definitely worthwhile. In the future, we need to expand our research to understand whether it can work in different educational settings, such as high schools, and whether it works equally well for pupils from different backgrounds.
For the moment, the Daily Mile can certainly be part of the solution to child health and well-being. Look out for it: It could be here to stay.
Moran and Brooks are senior lecturers at the University of Stirling, where Chesam is a doctoral researcher. This article was originally published on theconversation.com.
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