Last Friday, my kids ran a mile at school in aid of Sport Relief, a U.K. biannual charity that encourages the British to get active and raise money to help people living in some of the poorest communities in the world.
But what if my kids did this every day? A primary school in Scotland introduced the idea of running a mile every day and it has proven so successful that it could soon be introduced nationwide. Not a single child at the school is overweight!
Teachers at St. Ninian’s School in Stirling have been sending their students (ages 4 to 11) out for a daily run for the last four years and it has benefited the children in several ways. Not only has it improved their health and fitness levels, it has also helped their concentration in class. Five hundred other primary schools across the U.K. have begun using the same program in order to prevent childhood obesity.
Clearly delighted, the headteacher at St. Ninian’s Elaine Wyllie told The Guardian: “The thought of children across the country running every day because of something we’ve done is phenomenal. The most important thing is that the children really enjoy it, otherwise you couldn’t sustain it. They come back in bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked, how children used to look. It’s joyous to see.”
When you consider that running a mile only takes about 15 minutes out of a school day, it seems crazy that we haven’t thought to do this before. At St. Ninian’s, the children are taken around a specially built track on the school’s playing field for their daily mile whenever it best works in that day’s schedule. Only extremely bad weather has stopped them from running. I’m sure the kids love it — getting to run around and have a laugh with their classmates. Children who aren’t mobile are also supported to take part, meaning no one gets left behind.
When you consider that childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, isn’t it time we brought in more programs like “The Daily Mile”? The percentage of children ages 6 to 11 years old in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012, and the number is still on the rise. The World Health Organization considers childhood obesity to be one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century.
And what are the health risks for obese children? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure) and pre-diabetes, not to mention being much more likely to develop cancer of the breast, colon, and endometrium. Children who are obese are also at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Researchers from Stirling University are looking for quantitative evidence to prove the physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits of this daily mile run. St. Ninian’s students are going to be compared with children from a school in Stirling that has yet to start “The Daily Mile.” Dr. Colin Moran, who is leading the study, told The Guardian: “The children [at St. Ninian’s] don’t seem to have problems with obesity; they seem happier and staff say they settle into lessons faster, so we designed a study that would test all of these things. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits but there aren’t any scientific facts yet.” It will be fascinating to find out the results of this study in July.
So what do you think? Should your school support “The Daily Mile”? I think it’s a fantastic idea and only wish I had thought of doing it for myself sooner!