The Daily Mile™ Tackles the Impact of Health Inequality for Children in the US

Research findings suggest that The Daily Mile, which is accessible to children in urban and suburban areas, helps to narrow the health gap between those two groups. The study was conducted by researchers at Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge.  The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The Daily Mile initiative was launched in Scotland in 2012 by Principal Elaine Wyllie MBE as a way to incorporate more activity in the school day. The Daily Mile encourages elementary school children to run or jog, for 15 minutes, at their own pace, every day.

More than 27,000 children are participating in The Daily Mile in the US. That number is growing, with a goal to reach all American children in the future. Currently, trials of The Daily Mile are underway in California, Illinois, North Carolina, New York, Texas and Washington.

Tishya Venkatraman, first author of the research from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Currently less than half of children and young people meet the recommendation of an average of 60 minutes of physical activity daily.” She continued: “The Daily Mile can be carried out at safe social distances, which makes it suitable for our current times.”

Professor Sonia Saxena, senior author of the study and head of the Child Health Unit at Imperial said: “It’s important to ensure children get regular classroom breaks to reduce the spread of COVID 19, as well as benefit from getting the chance to be physically active after these long months of lockdown. Physical activity is crucial for children’s physical and mental health, and The Daily Mile could be a much needed scheme for helping children stay well throughout the pandemic.”

Tishya Venkatraman added: “It is reassuring that previously hard to reach groups, like those schools in deprived urban zip codes, and those with large pupil numbers, are just as likely to sign up to The Daily Mile as other schools. This is important because so often wide rollout of health policies and interventions can, in some cases, act to widen health disparities – especially interventions that depend on individuals voluntarily changing their behavior. Health behavior is not always a choice, especially for children who do not always have control over when they are allowed to be active. Teachers say the appeal of The Daily Mile is its simplicity and adaptability which is reflected in its widespread uptake.”

The study included all state funded elementary schools in England from 2012-2018. It is the first national study to characterize elementary school uptake of a whole school-based physical activity intervention. The study suggested The Daily Mile appears to be reaching more disadvantaged elementary school populations in urban areas where obesity prevalence is highest. The Daily Mile registered schools include those with both high and low educational attainment, and are in areas with high and low physical activity. The initiative had been popular in most geographical regions across the country.

Elaine Wyllie MBE, Founder of The Daily Mile, said: “I’m so pleased that this new research highlights the social reach of The Daily Mile. It demonstrates how children are enjoying The Daily Mile’s benefits on a scale which can help to address health inequality gaps faced by disadvantaged children. All children, regardless of their circumstances, are given free access to an enjoyable and sustainable physical activity, which impacts positively on their health and wellbeing. The sheer simplicity of The Daily Mile helps to remove barriers to participation, and it can be introduced easily in any school, anywhere in the country, with no child left behind. On a national scale, this can address many pressing needs around children’s health.”

“Students that need The Daily Mile the most experience the biggest improvements. All of the children feel good about their accomplishments, and these successes carry over to other parts of the school day,” said US Program Manager Bill Russell.

The research was funded by the NIHR School for Public Health Research as well as The Daily Mile Foundation, supported by INEOS.




For more information:

Kate Wighton
Research Media Manager (Medicine)
Imperial College London
(Out-of-hours press office number: 07803 886248)

Chris Hall
MediaZoo for The Daily Mile Foundation
07739 571 634

Bill Russell
The Daily Mile USA Program Manager