Source: The Sunday Times
The work carried out by The Daily Mile Foundation can be seen against a backdrop of growing levels of obesity and sedentary behaviour among children across the UK. By acting now and introducing regular physical activity into their lives, we can improve the health outcomes for children now and when they are adults.
“Do we have to?” “Yes.”
“Because you’ll feel better.”
“I feel fine.”
“So do I, Dad.”
“It’s a fun experiment. It will be fun. Also, please.”
And so begins the Rudd Family Twice Daily Run. This exercise in exercising is based on The Daily Mile, a concept sweeping Fat Britain as if our lives depend upon it. Which, of course, they do. A third of 10- to 11-year-old children in England are overweight or obese. Your Olivers and your Fearnley-Whittingstalls have made a lot of sensible noise about what (on earth) we’re feeding them, but there is less hubbub about fitness.
The statistics on childhood activity make grim reading, so I won’t give you them. Suffice to say, Britain’s iKids are among the most inactive on the planet. In 2012, Elaine Wyllie, head teacher of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling, became concerned about the lack of fitness displayed by her pupils. She launched The Daily Mile: every child in the school jogs for 15 minutes a day. Within six months, “not one of our 57 primary 1 children was deemed overweight … attention levels and behaviour in class improved, and parents said their children are fitter, more active and alert.”
Wyllie launched the concept nationally and internationally, and, as of last week, more than 2,000 schools in Britain (and more than 820 in Belgium — go Belgium!) had signed up. Our school has yet to do so, so here I am in the field behind our house, begging my three boys to start running.
We agree to start small: one lap of the field in the morning, another in the evening. Day one, the five-year-old is off like a rabbit, but the 10- and 12-year-old trudge off sullenly — they’ve been burnt by family experiments before. The “cook a meal from a different country once a week” experiment lasted three weeks. The “make a squadron of Airfix Spitfires” plan nose-dived 1.03 Spitfires in. And so, 500 yards later, they report total ambivalence.
Days two and three: the morning laps go well (the youngest goes round twice). The evening laps are a struggle (“I’ve done rugby”/“I’ve got a sore knee”). But I swear all three go to sleep quicker than usual. Due to logistical issues, we miss day four. This is clearly why it works best if the school enshrines running in its curriculum. Running to miss home time: difficult. Running to miss school time: no problem. Day five: no protests. Weekend: not a chance.
We’re halfway through week two of our one-month trial. Two laps — about 1,000 yards plus a couple of press-ups — is now the norm. It won’t last. But I’ve seen enough to know this is a good thing, particularly for boys who hate sitting still in class for long hot summer hours. They are less fidgety, they sleep better and their appetites are less snack-based, more decent scoff at mealtimes.
“Daddy, you should do it too,” said the youngest yesterday morning as I lined them up.
“One problem at a time, young man,” I replied. “Now, off you go.”
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the content creator, The Sunday Times. To read the article in full, please click the link below.