Congratulations to the Daily Mile, which recently turned ten years old! According to the Daily Mile Foundation, four million children in 90 countries worldwide – including two million children in England alone – are now involved, twice as many as in 2019. Scotland was last year announced as the world’s first ‘Daily Mile Nation’. We have an obesity crisis affecting children and young people, and long-term health projections are, frankly, awful. There are many drivers of ill health, of course, and no one simple (or even complex) solution. Nevertheless, as it says on the official Daily Mile website, being active is key to everyone’s health and wellbeing.
The Daily Mile initiative was started in 2012 by Elaine Wyllie MBE, headteacher of a primary school in Stirling. Concerned about children’s lack of physical fitness, she got her pupils moving for fifteen minutes a day to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Over the last ten years the Daily Mile has grown into a global movement, enjoyed by millions of children and enjoying the backing of sports stars and others.
The aim of The Daily Mile is to improve the physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing of our children – regardless of age, ability or personal circumstances.from the Daily Mile website
Long-term projections about the state of the nation’s health make grim reading. Figures published by Cancer Research UK in May 2022 suggest that around seven in ten people in the UK – 42 million people – could be overweight by 2040, roughly 70% of the population.
The World Health Organisation’s European Regional Obesity Report 2022 said that obesity is at “epidemic proportions” in Europe, that obesity is causing 200,000 cancer cases and 1.2 million deaths a year, and that no country is on track to meet the WHO’s target of halting the rise in obesity levels by 2025.
Meanwhile, a 2021 study by University College, London indicated that about one in three middle-aged people have multiple chronic health issues such as recurrent back pain, mental health problems and high blood pressure. The research also showed the long-lasting links between childhood and adolescence and midlife health.
In blogs such as A collective approach to obesity we have argued that radical new thinking is now required if we are going to prevent a public health disaster in the decades to come.
Encouraging children and young people – and adults – to take part in regular physical activity is not, on its own, going to magically solve all our health problems. There is a clear link, for example, between health outcomes and economic circumstances. Choosing healthy food options is not always easy – or cheap. Anyone living in cold and damp accommodation is likely to have health problems. Meanwhile, a junk-food culture seems to be, in the words of the restaurateur and food campaigner Henry Dimbleby, “all-pervasive”.
However, regular physical activity does have lots of benefits – especially for children. For example:
Schools have a massive role to play. Life-Based Learning is an approach to education and development for children and young people in which the life challenges that we all face become the focus of a fully rounded, life-based approach to learning. Tackling obesity – and promoting children’s physical health and wellbeing more generally – is one such challenge.
Life-Based Learning priorities children’s physical and mental wellbeing. This includes opportunities for regular sport and physical activity – including the Daily Mile or something similar – and an emphasis on food education and healthy eating.
Image at the head of this article by Mircea – See my collections from Pixabay.