Walking a mile a day could fight child obesity

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An initiative in which school children walk or run a mile every day could be the answer to tackling obesity and sedentary behaviour globally, according to new research.

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Daily Mile founder Elaine Wyllie and Colin Moran from the University of Stirling with children from St Ninians Primary School

Findings from the first study into the benefits of the Daily Mile initiative, which sees pupils take a 15-minute break from class to run, jog or walk around their school grounds – on top of normal breaks and PE lessons - confirm the scheme improves children’s fitness, body composition and activity levels.

The Daily Mile was founded in 2012 by former headteacher of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling, Elaine Wyllie, to improve the fitness of her pupils. The initiative, which has the backing of the Scottish Government, has now been adopted by more than 3,500 schools in 31 countries.

The research was led by the universities of Stirling and Edinburgh and involved two primary schools in the Stirling Council area, with 391 children aged between four and 12 taking part.

One school implemented the Daily Mile, while the other did not.

Children wore accelerometers to record their average daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and average daily sedentary behaviour. They also had measurements taken for body fat and took part in a bleep test.

After correcting for age and gender, researchers found ‘significant’ improvements in children attending the school where the Daily Mile was introduced. They showed a relative increase of 9.1 minutes of MVPA per day and a relative decrease of 18.2 minutes per day of sedentary time. They also covered, on average, 39.1 metres more during the beep test and they had less body fat.

Dr Colin Moran from the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, who led the study, said, ‘Our research suggests that the Daily Mile is a worthwhile intervention to introduce in schools and that it should be considered for inclusion in Government policy, both at home and abroad.’

Founder of the Daily Mile, Elaine Wyllie, said, ‘I am delighted that new research confirms that the Daily Mile improves the physical fitness, health and wellbeing of young people.

'This new report offers scientific support to our core belief in the benefits of just 15 minutes’ daily activity. It has strengthened the message at the heart of the whole campaign that making the Daily Mile part of school life can transform the lives of young people everywhere.

'The campaign has been going from strength to strength in 2018 and we’ve already had a phenomenal response to our TV ad campaign, with hundreds of schools joining the movement in the last month alone. We now have concrete evidence of the health benefits of The Daily Mile and another yet stronger platform on which to grow the campaign.’

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