Childhood obesity is a huge problem, but the solution needn’t be complicated. One Scottish school has the perfect answer, and it's wonderfully simple: 15 minutes of exercise every day.
It’s a tried-and-tested method. Pupils at St Ninians primary school in Stirling have been running a mile a day for the last four years, and teachers claim it has improved their behaviour as well as their fitness levels. In fact, they say none of the pupils is overweight.
Teachers takes pupils out of lessons whenever it best fits in with that day’s timetable to run a mile on a specially built circuit around the school playing field. This happens every single day — only stopped by ice or very heavy rain. Children with mobility problems receive the support they need to enable them to take part.
Following the St Ninians example are 500 other primary schools across the U.K., and a campaign has been launched for every school in the country to follow suit as part of a nationwide drive to combat childhood obesity.
In Stirling alone, 30 schools are taking part in daily miles, with schools in other parts of Scotland, Gateshead, London and Wales doing the same.
Elaine Wyllie, headteacher of St Ninians, started the scheme. She told Daily Mail how passionate she is about the campaign.
"The thought of children across the country running every day because of something we've done is phenomenal," she said. "It’s a common sense approach to children's fitness, which is free and easy. The most important thing is that the children really enjoy it, otherwise you couldn't sustain it. They come back in bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked, how children used to look. It's joyous to see."
"We want all schools to give their children the opportunity to run a mile each day," she added. "It only takes fifteen minutes and has been shown to improve their health, fitness and concentration in class."
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, one in 10 children was obese at the start of primary school in England in 2014, but one in five was obese by the end.
NHS guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for five to 18-year-olds, which should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis.
Clearly, the success of St Ninians' efforts depends on support from parents — it wouldn't take much to undo the good work done during the daily mile with unhealthy meals and slovenly habits. But what's so brilliant about this campaign is that it gives control to the kids themselves. They're not being put under pressure to compete, or take part in something that's beyond their capabilities. They're simply asked to run. Combine that with a greater understanding of nutrition and fitness, and we have a generation of youngsters who are well equipped to make healthy lifestyle choices.
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