‘Daily Mile’ improving schoolchildren’s fitness and self-esteem

Simple idea to get children running for 15 minutes a day is yielding impressive results

 Pupils of Scoil Muire Gan Smal in  Inchicore, Dublin, taking part in the Daily Mile. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Pupils of Scoil Muire Gan Smal in Inchicore, Dublin, taking part in the Daily Mile. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

 

At Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál in Inchicore, the school day doesn’t begin with spelling tests, maths tables or geography lessons.

Instead, there’s a 15-minute run around the local park and sports grounds.

By the time they come back, say teachers, the children are re-energised and have better focus and concentration.

Since the school started the “Daily Mile” last year, the improvement in students’ fitness has been striking.

Pupils across the board have greater stamina, are running faster and are performing better in other sports.

Boosted

Teachers in the primary school say even typically inactive kids are now willing runners and their self-esteem has been boosted.

With rising concern over health problems such as obesity, organisers of the Daily Mile initiative say it is playing a vital role in improving fitness levels of pupils.

Frank Greally, a former top athlete and now an ambassador for the Daily Mile, says the simplicity of the approach means it has been embraced by more than 700 schools in Ireland in a short space of time.

“There is no focus on winning or competition between the children and there’s no cost involved,” says Greally.

“The children go out at some stage during the school hours and run, jog or walk a mile . . . Every child need not run a mile, they do what they can.”

The sedentary nature of children’s lives means that it can be a struggle for many children at the start.

“You often see kids puffed out after a few small laps in the first week. After five minutes, they have to pull up. That stops in three or four weeks. Kids get fit very quickly. It’s all about consistency and regularity.”

With the Daily Mile it is recommended that it takes place during class time so that children still have their full break or play time.

It first began in Scotland in 2012, when head teacher Elaine Wylie realised how unfit many of the schoolchildren were.

She introduced the idea of 15 minutes of running, with no PE kit, on a regular basis.

Fitness levels

A study by researchers at Essex University later provided the first scientific evidence of the scheme’s effectiveness in raising fitness levels, as well as self-esteem and wellbeing.

Participants also performed better than predicted in reading, maths and writing compared to those who didn’t take part.

Greally says the initiative in Ireland, which is organised out of Athletics Ireland, is now spreading to schools of all types, including special schools.

“I can see how this generation of schoolchildren really needs this. If we don’t do something, we’re sitting on a time-bomb. It’s just 15 minutes a day, but it makes such as significant difference.

“It’s also boosting self-esteem. I saw a lad recently, with a little bit of weight on him, running along and chatting. The teacher told me that before the Daily Mile, he was coming to school, not really interacting with anyone and just going through the motions.

“Now, he’s lighter and is running with his buddies and his head is up. If it makes that kind of impact on just one child, it’s worth it.”