Simplicity crucial to success of ‘Daily Mile’ initiative

A mile is often several laps round a playground. Picture: Jon Savage
A mile is often several laps round a playground. Picture: Jon Savage
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Experts have found that simplicity is the key to the success of a primary school exercise initiative known as ‘The Daily Mile’.

New research led by the University of Stirling shows the scheme, originally dreamt up by one Scottish primary school headmistress, has enjoyed worldwide success thanks to “its simplicity, flexibility and adaptability”.

It comes just months after research led by the same team confirmed The Daily Mile, which involves children taking a 15-minute break from class to do physical activity, improves fitness, body composition and activity levels in participants.

Experts, including scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and the Highlands and Islands, studied the implementation of the scheme founded in Stirling in 2012.

Dr Gemma Ryde, lecturer in physical activity at Stirling, said: “This is the first study to explore why The Daily Mile might have been so successfully implemented.

“Our research suggests that this success can be attributed to the simple core intervention components – allowing the children to walk, jog or run; flexible delivery that supports teacher autonomy; and adaptability that suits the specific primary school context.”

Researchers carried out interviews at four primary schools in Scotland with staff who had a significant role in bringing in The Daily Mile. The amount of time was perceived as being short enough to not interfere too much with the school day and, if the children were running, then they achieved about one mile during this period.

Primary schools predominantly chose to use walking, jogging or running as the type of activity, faithful to the original Daily Mile concept conceived by Elaine Wyllie, former headmistress of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling.

Dr Ryde said: “They highlighted how these challenges, which move away from the original simple design, plus other demands from within the curriculum, meant that The Daily Skip was only happening sporadically, if at all.”

The study found that schools typically participated in The Daily Mile three to five times a week, normally on days with no scheduled physical education. Teacher autonomy was an important factor in implementation, with staff deciding the best time of day to take children outdoors, while adaptability was also important.