Anti-childhood obesity initiative offers ‘small’ benefit, finds study

The International Journal of Obesity also found that taking part in the Daily Mile run beneficially impacted girls more than boys

An initiative designed to help combat childhood obesity, which sees school pupils partake in a daily run, has had a small-but-noticeable impact, according to a new report.

The study, published on 28 January in the International Journal of Obesity (IJO), also found that the Daily Mile offered more benefits to girls than boys.

First launched in Scotland in 2012, the scheme requires children to spend 15+ minutes a day jogging or running at their own pace.

Despite the lack of objective evidence as to its efficacy, the initiative has since been adopted by more than 10,500 schools and nurseries across the world.

The Daily Mile could form part of a whole system approach to childhood obesity prevention

Forty state-funded Birmingham schools took part in the IJO study, funded by Birmingham City Council and carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol, Services For Education and Sport Birmingham, and the National Institute for Health Research.

Beginning in April 2017, the cluster-randomised controlled trial saw half the schools randomly selected to implement the Daily Mile, while the other 20 were placed into a control group implementing only the school’s usual health and wellbeing activities.

After four months – and then again after a year – researchers found that those taking part in the Daily Mile saw more of an effect on body mass index than those who did not, albeit a small one. The effect was more marked in girls than boys.

From the archive: Livewell Child initiative aims to fight childhood obesity

“The potential difference we found of the effect of the Daily Mile in girls compared to boys was surprising,” said Emma Frew, professor in health economics at the University of Birmingham, “particularly given that most physical activity interventions are usually more effective in boys, and it raises interesting hypotheses and implications.

“If society is willing to pay for an intervention that is highly cost-effective in girls, but not in boys, then we suggest the Daily Mile could form part of a whole system approach to childhood obesity prevention.

“Indeed, it is our hope that our research will lead to a recommendation that all primary and junior schools participate in the Daily Mile; however, we also hope this study highlights that schools alone cannot be responsible for tackling childhood obesity.”

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