The benefits of running a mile a day

When a volunteer labeled students as unfit and out of shape, school administration took immediate action. With the kids.

Primary students at St. Ninians elementary in Stirling, Scotland were sent outside that afternoon and instructed to run around the playing field. Their collective exhaustion and disappointment started what’s now known as the Daily Mile, according to an article in the Guardian.

For 15 minutes a day, every day, students walked or ran outside to improve fitness. Their sharp improvement encouraged other classes to join and the Daily Mile eventually spread beyond St. Ninians to 3,600 primary schools in 35 countries. The initiative was studied and has resulted in improved fitness and body composition among primary school children, as well as increased active time and decreased sedentary behaviour.

Most notably, researchers state that kids are not just learning, but doing and feeling the benefits. These benefits can carry into adulthood too, as stated by Craig Williams, director of the children’s health and exercise research centre at the University of Exeter.

“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,” he said.

Other long-term outcomes of an active childhood include higher bone density in adulthood, which means less risk of fractures and osteoporosis in later life.

Despite all the evidence, some still question the timing of the Daily Mile. So in 2016, Williams and 23 other researchers answered the skepticism with a consensus statement: “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.”

Not to mention that running outside in daylight can advance the body clock and affect cognition and alertness, which is especially helpful for teenagers experiencing puberty.

In the six years since the first run at St. Ninians, the Daily Mile has been adopted by half of the Scottish primary schools and prompted the launch of the Daily Mile Foundation, a place for other schools and organizations to join the movement. Check out the link for resources to bring to your local elementary school. Fifteen minutes is all it takes.

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