875. The Daily Mile makes primary school children more active, less sedentary and improves their fitness and body composition: a quasi-experimental pilot study
Commentary: Hannah Tarrant, National Heart Foundation of Australia.
Physical inactivity is an increasing global concern. As physical activity behaviours in childhood predict engagement as an adult, it is important to consider ways of maximising physical activity participation in early years of life. The Daily Mile is a Government promoted physical activity program popularised by a school in Stirling, Scotland. The internationally recognised initiative aims for school students to run or walk outside at a self-selected pace for 15 minutes (approximately 1 mile) each day, during class time. The current study aimed to quantitatively and objectively verify anecdotal evidence proposing that the program increases physical activity and fitness, improves body composition and reduces sedentary behaviour among students who participate.
The pilot study “Using the Daily Mile to turn the WHEEL” (Well-being, Health, Exercise, Enjoyment and Learning)” employed a quasi-experimental repeated measures design, analysing 391 participants (aged 4-12, school years 1-7) across two primary schools. One school introduced the Daily Mile, and the other school followed a standard curriculum. Outcomes variables included average daily moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and average daily sedentary behaviour (accelerometer-assessed), 20-metre shuttle run fitness test performance and adiposity (skinfold assessed). Testing session durations were between 1 and 2 hours and were conducted over approximately two weeks. The baseline and follow-up assessments were conducted in same academic year. General linear model regressions were used to asses the affect of program participation.
Results demonstrated significant improvements in MVPA, sedentary time, fitness and body composition in the intervention group. For example, participants who completed the Daily Mile illustrated a relative increase of 9.1 minutes per day of MVPA (p = 0.027). Furthermore, sedentary time decreased by 18.2 minutes per day (p = 0.017). Regarding the shuttle run, there was a relative increase of 39.1 metres (p = 0.037), and skinfolds decreased by 1.4mm (p = 0.036). These results were present after adjusting for age, gender and socioeconomic confounders.
As physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are growing global concerns, it is important to consider ways of supporting healthy behaviours at all stages of life. The current study quantitatively reaffirms anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of the Daily Mile in improving the physical health of primary school aged children. It additionally supports the integration of sustainable and effective physical activity interventions (such as the Daily Mile) into policy, as a means of reducing inactivity among children. As such, the current research is of value to teachers, policy makers and public health professionals who can play a role in influencing the ways in which children engage in active living.
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