A mile a day

The Daily Mile was introduced in Malta three months ago. 35 schools have joined this initiative, with around 6,000 children already getting an extra 15 minutes of daily physical activity, while improving their fitness and health

We lead hectic lifestyles. Emails come in, there are calls to answer, all tied with the responsibilities of everyday life. However, as adults we do have some control over our schedules. Being a child today is equally, if not more, stressful. There might be fewer grown-up responsibilities, such as home loans and bills to pay, but there’s still a heavy load on weaker shoulders. We ask our children to wake up early, go to school, be attentive and get good grades, and that’s just in the morning.

In the afternoons we ask them to go here and there. Hopefully, some of it includes sport or some form of exercise, or an expressive or cultural event. But in those afternoons, there’s work related to school to do, and private lessons are also common. All this brings stress, and there are other, more indirect things which are deemed as negative exposures. Too much time on electronic devices, from game consoles to tablets, is very unhealthy. In addition to this there’s almost a fixation (addiction?) to social media channels. Looking at a screen for long period of times is not a good thing, especially for young children.

It is not just schools that should tackle this. Parents need to make sure that the well-being of their children is catered for, with a healthy balance in their lives. Parents must make sure they spend good quality time with their children and find windows to be together as a family. The time spent talking and listening to each, just for the sake of it, is almost non-existent in today’s world of mobile phones and a million other distractions.

Schools are playing an important role in reversing these negative trends. Recent research has shown that only 24% of Maltese 10-11 year olds meet the recommended hour of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity and that 40% of all Maltese children are overweight or obese. So, schools have launched the Daily Mile initiative to try to counterbalance all this.

This is an initiative that was started in the UK by Elaine Wyllie and aims to improve the physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing of children. Daily Mile is basically having a mile-long walk every day. It is very easy to implement and fun to do, and only takes 15 minutes.

At any time during the school day, the teacher takes the class to the yard for a jog or run. Most children cover a mile in 15 minutes, while some children do more and others less. There is no need for a warm up or to change into the school PE kit.

It is neither Physical Education nor a competition, and everyone can participate at their own pace, irrespective of his or her ability. After the mile, children are focused and concentrate more in the classroom. When interviewed, children said that they enjoy The Daily Mile and that it makes them fitter and happier at school, while giving them a short break from the long period of sitting in class.

The Daily Mile was introduced in Malta three months ago. 35 schools have joined this initiative, with around 6,000 children already getting an extra 15 minutes of daily physical activity, while improving their fitness and health.

Given the benefits of The Daily Mile, and being such a simple concept, more schools are being urged to join this initiative. It is mainly targeted at primary schools, however, various middle and secondary schools have also introduced it, and it can easily be extended to the workplace, particularly before working hours or during breaks.

 

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education and Employment

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