I’m a strong advocate of physical activity, particularly for children. So is it ok for me to dislike the ‘Daily Mile’ initiative?
For those that aren’t aware of it, the Daily Mile is an initiative started off by Elaine Wiley, a headteacher from Stirling in Scotland, who began it in her school in order to improve the fitness of her schoolchildren. It’s intended to be a social activity, where children run or jog for 15 minutes per day during school time, which is said to improve children’s fitness levels as well as their concentration levels and mood. It’s also now sponsored by INEOS, a global manufacturer of petrochemicals and oil products, but that’s another story.
In terms of the Daily Mile’s benefits, they’re not exactly groundbreaking. It’s well known that physical activity improves both physical and mental health. So what’s wrong with it? As a runner, coach and researcher, I want to inspire people to want to be active all of the time, to be on their feet exploring their local neighbourhoods and environments, and in doing so to keep their brains and bodies functioning well. Does this equate to running in circles around an often concrete playground for 15 minutes per day? I’m not sure it does.
The Daily Mile is one limited solution to address the fact that children in schools are sitting down far too much. Other campaigns such as Outdoor Classroom Day and the OPAL project are also aiming to get children outdoors and active for more of the time, but what we really need is full-scale change. Instead of taking a break from sitting down for an hour to run around for 15 minutes, shouldn’t we instead be looking at ways in which we can avert the need to sit down for that long in the first place?
Like playgrounds, it seems to me that the Daily Mile is just there to make up for inadequacies with our basic provisions for children, largely inside school but also filtering down to outside the school grounds too. If our schools and neighbourhoods were better set-up for children playing and enjoying being active for its own sake in the first place, such initiatives wouldn’t be necessary.
So yes, it’s a step in the right direction. But I’m saddened that it’s come to this, and that running around in circles for one mile is the best way we can think of to get children active every day.