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Most Kids Aren’t Getting Enough Exercise

Originally published by UW Medicine

Elaine Wiley, a former head of school in Scotland, noticed her students weren’t getting much physical activity during the school day. So she developed a quick and easy way for them to get up and get active: running or jogging at their own pace, ideally in fresh air, for 15 minutes a day.

Since its inception in 2011, The Daily Mile, Wiley’s popular elementary-school program, has spread around the world, including 150 cities and towns across the U.S. And it has found a natural partner in The Sports Institute at UW Medicine.

As part of the collaboration, The Sports Institute is conducting a study to understand how movement affects learning, behavior and social-emotional wellness in children. The study is examining the frequency of movement, the intensity of movement, the timing of movement breaks during the school day and how feasible it is for schools to implement these breaks.

“We know that around 80% of kids are not getting the 60 minutes of activity per day that is recommended by health experts,” says Karla Landis, program director of The Daily Mile at The Sports Institute. That’s why The Daily Mile is designed to serve as a movement break in addition to PE or recess.

Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Landis has shifted the program so it works at home. To that end, she has helped develop a one-page resource for families and parents to set up The Daily Mile in their own communities.

“Regardless of location, moderate to vigorous physical activity has shown to be beneficial for child development,” says Christine Mac Donald, PhD, associate professor of neurological surgery at the UW School of Medicine, research director for The Sports Institute and the James and Gaye Pigott Sports Health and Safety Endowed Chair.

The Sports Institute’s researchers are preparing a national survey to assess outcomes of the study, with results expected in 2021. Their hope is that the data and information will help school administrators support their students’ learning and long-term wellbeing, and that resulting policy changes will reduce health inequities, so that all children can benefit.

“It’s particularly important to ensure that all children have the opportunity for moderate to vigorous movement in their day,” says Mac Donald, “whether in the classroom or at home through virtual learning.”