Exercise for children, 15 minutes of physical activity daily is enough

Child experts say children should be encouraged to run or indulge in some physical activity when they take a break from studies.

Attending school, tuition classes, and then doing their homework – this is what the average day in an urban kid’s life today looks like. Sports and physical activities have taken a back seat.

A new study well serves as a reminder for parents to encourage their children to take brief breaks dedicated to physical activities. The study examined the effectiveness of the popular Daily Mile initiative – which involves children taking a 15-minute break from class to do physical activity.

The Daily Mile was founded in February 2012 by Elaine Wyllie, the then head teacher of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling, to improve the fitness of her pupils. Children are encouraged to run, jog or walk around their school grounds during a 15-minute break from class, which is in addition to normal intervals and physical education lessons.

Today, more and more younger adults and children are being diagnosed with a variety of lifestyle disorders. (Shutterstock)

The findings indicate that The Daily Mile can help combat global problems such as low physical activity, high sedentary behaviour, declining fitness levels and high levels of obesity. “Our research observed positive changes in children who participated in The Daily Mile intervention, compared to our control school where the scheme was not introduced,” said one of the study authors Colin Moran from the University of Stirling in Britain.

The University of Stirling study involved 391 pupils, aged between four and 12. Each child underwent an initial assessment and then a follow-up later in the academic year. Between times, one school implemented The Daily Mile, while pupils at the other — known as the control school — followed their usual curriculum. Children wore accelerometers to record their average daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and average daily sedentary behaviour.

The team witnessed significant improvements in the intervention school, relative to the control school, the researcher said. “We observed a relative increase of 9.1 minutes per day in terms of MPVA and a relative decrease of 18.2 minutes per day in sedentary time,” said study co-author Naomi Brooks from the University of Stirling. The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.

All over the world, there’s been an obesity endemic — children aren’t spared either. And Indian kids aren’t far behind. By 2025, India will have over 17 million obese children and stand second among 184 countries where the number of obese children are concerned, said a study published in 2016 in Paediatric Obesity, an international journal.

Today, more and more younger adults and children are being diagnosed with a variety of lifestyle disorders. There’s a spike in cases of Indian children developing type 1 as well as type 2 diabetes. And a major reason is a sedentary lifestyle. Past research has established that childhood obesity can also lead to non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This is enough cause for concern — teachers and parents must motivate schoolchildren to take a 15-minute break from class to do physical activity and boost their health and fitness levels.