Nearly two-thirds of Scots are over-weight or obese, costing the economy up to £4.6 billion a year
In February 2012, headteacher Elaine Wyllie decided enough was enough: the children are her school, St Ninians Primary in Stirling, were too unfit and something had to be done. So she instituted a simple remedy, the Daily Mile, to get the children running or jogging for 15 minutes a day.
At first, many pupils were unable to run for that long, but four weeks later almost all of them could do so. The children ended up being “fitter, more active and alert” and it even seems to have improved behaviour in class. The Daily Mile has since spread to about half the country’s primary schools and attracted attention from around the world.
Now scientists have confirmed the Daily Mile is indeed a useful way to make youngsters more active, helping to save them from the sedentary lifestyle that the modern world has encouraged.
So, what are the rest of us waiting for? An astonishing 65 per cent of Scottish adults are over-weight or obese, a problem that is estimated to cost the economy anything from £0.9 billion to £4.6 billion a year.
But Elaine Wyllie and the children at St Ninians have shown us the way. We can escape our current pitiful situation. And we, like them, can become “fitter, more active and alert” and perhaps even nicer to one another. We might not be able to run a mile now but, with a few weeks of effort, most of us would be able to do so.
The benefits for us all, individually and as a nation, would be immense.
The Scottish Government, which hopes to turn Scotland into the first “Daily Mile Nation”, is on board and should be able to introduce policies designed to further encourage the practice. Companies like Scottish Power have signed up and more need to do so.
But, most of all, everyone in Scotland needs to realise the benefits of exercise because it is increasingly clear just how good it is for us – with some experts comparing it to a “wonder drug” – and just how bad a sedentary lifestyle is for us. We hardly needed scientific research to tell us the Daily Mile is a good idea, but it helps remove any excuses.
We also need to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly answer the questions: Am I over-weight? Do I want to be? and Could I do something about it?
For, to paraphrase The Corries, “we can still rise now” from our couches and be a “Daily Mile Nation” again – for one thing is clear our ancestors were never as unfit as we are today.