The Daily Mile Challenge for kids during lockdown
With so many children stuck at home because of the Covid-19 restrictions and school closures, there’s a danger they’ll also become stuck on the sofa or on a screen – or both.
But it is possible to leave the house for one form of exercise a day, so long as we maintain social distancing from people outside our own household, and there’s never been a better time for children to start doing The Daily Mile (thedailymile.co.uk).
The children’s exercise initiative was started by headteacher Elaine Wyllie eight years ago after she became concerned about her pupils’ lack of physical fitness. The idea is simply that children walk, run or jog – whatever pace suits them best – for 15 minutes every day, whether they’re at school or at home, to improve their health and wellbeing.
Though called ‘The Daily Mile’ because children tend to average running a mile in the 15 minutes, the distance isn’t compulsory, and the aim of the initiative is for participants to enjoy themselves, improve over time, and develop healthy habits for a lifetime.
And now parents are marooned at home too, there’s no reason for them not to start doing The Daily Mile along with their children, and enjoy the same benefits – with the added bonus of doing something healthy alongside their children. “We encourage people of all ages to stay active and positive while following the social distancing guidelines,” says Wyllie. “The Daily Mile – 15 minutes of walking or running outdoors in the fresh air – is an ideal way for families with children to stay fit while schools and nurseries remain closed and is a great boost for physical and mental health.
“No kit is needed, there’s no cost and The Daily Mile can take place anywhere it’s safe to walk or run. Families enjoy being outdoors connecting with nature and staying healthy together.
“The closure of schools and nurseries coincides with the onset of spring and the better weather, and the benefits which come from being outside in the fresh air cannot be underestimated.”
Here, Wyllie outlines the benefits of The Daily Mile, which has been adopted by over 10,900 schools and nurseries in 78 countries, leading to over 2.3 million children running.
The World Health Organisation recommends children get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day – but fewer than 40 per cent of children get this. The Daily Mile is all about improving the health and wellbeing of children, with benefits ranging from physical, to emotional, social and mental.
A study by the University of Birmingham found that after 12 months, The Daily Mile could be a cost-effective solution to helping address childhood obesity, and had a positive impact on the BMI of girls.
The Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh conducted a study to assess the physiological benefits of The Daily Mile for primary school children, and found it improved their fitness by five per cent, improved body composition by contributing to a reduction in body fat by four per cent, increased physical activity levels by 15 per cent, and reduced sedentary behaviour by five per cent.
“The Daily Mile is built on the principle that it’s easy to implement, inclusive and fun to do,” says Wyllie. “It’s simple, free and gets children out of the classroom – or the home – for 15 minutes a day. Teachers or parents can do it whenever best fits into their schedule and children don’t have to get changed.”
According to a University of Turin study, teachers who participated in the initiative found it to be extremely easy to implement, and 96.4 per cent of teachers agreed The Daily Mile had no negative impact on their teaching.
It improves children’s memory, attention and mood. Physical activity creates endorphins and puts people in a better mood, stresses Wyllie. Research led by Swansea University reported that as well as significantly improving children’s fitness, The Daily Mile had a positive impact on children’s happiness. And further research by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh found 15 minutes of self-paced physical activity, such as The Daily Mile, led to a reported seven per cent improvement in children’s alertness, mood and verbal memory.