Children in the United States are less active than ever before.
On average, kids spend more than seven hours each day engaged in sedentary activities, depriving them of the health benefits of physical activity that contribute to normal development and peak health. In the U.S., only a quarter of young children meet the U.S. government daily recommendation for one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity and fewer than half have adequate heart and lung fitness. At the same time, children are facing unprecedented challenges with physical activity as a result of COVID-19. The closure of schools, parks, and playing fields has eliminated many of the ways youth stay active, such as PE classes, organized sports, active play, and active transportation.
Research has shown that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve a child’s ability to learn, remember, pay attention, and reason. And while access to successful distance learning tools and strategies is not equitable, the benefits of movement for children are. Children ages 5 to 13 experience the same benefits from physical activity regardless of their social or economic situation, race or ethnicity. We can’t change many of the things that make learning at home difficult, but we can put one proven idea to work – schedule time for children to move every day.
We partnered with The Daily Mile Foundation to launch The Daily Mile USA, a free, school-based program that encourages children to run or jog for fifteen minutes every day to improve their health, concentration, and learning. The Daily Mile USA offers schools and their students a program that is easy to implement and use. We are working with The Daily Mile Foundation to improve the health and wellbeing of children, while identifying and understanding the connections between physical activity and improved academic, behavioral and health outcomes in students.
Together, we are building a community who prioritizes physical activity in educational environments across America.
Our Next Move
We are working with community partners and educators to bring the program to schools across Washington state and beyond. We are continuing to evaluate the impact of The Daily Mile, the role of physical activity during the school day, and the connections between physical activity and positive academic, behavioral, and health outcomes.
After an initial pilot study, we found The Daily Mile is logistically feasible for elementary teachers in the United States. We also identified small improvements in standardized academic performance measures focused on mathematics, however, additional research is required to validate these observations. Efforts are now focused on investigating the sustainability and impact of The Daily Mile in remote, in-person, and hybrid learning environments, as well as removing barriers so every student can participate.
For resources and information on other ways to help your students move, visit our Physical Activity Resources for Teachers page.