London: Motivating schoolchildren to take a 15-minute break from class to do physical activity may boost their health and fitness levels, a new study suggests.
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 findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, 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 Daily Mile was founded in February 2012 by Elaine Wyllie, the then headteacher 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.
The 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.
They also had skinfold measurements taken to check body fat, and were assessed on their performance at a multistage fitness test (known as a bleep test or shuttle run), where they ran between cones 20 metres apart between bleeps.
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.