Local schoolchildren going the extra mile in fitness drive

Children from St Eithne's Primary School get ready to go the extra mile.

Children from St Eithne's Primary School get ready to go the extra mile.

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Local schooldchildren have been going the extra mile in a new fitness project being rolled out in the city.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust’s Health Improvement Department and the Department for Communities funded Neighbourhood Renewal Health Project have joined forces to support local schools in the Derry area to begin The Daily Mile journey.

Pupils from Groarty Primary School going the extra mile.

Pupils from Groarty Primary School going the extra mile.

Over the past few weeks, children and their teachers from local schools have joined the growing number of schools across the UK and Ireland who are taking part in The Daily Mile.

The programme gets children walking, jogging or running for 15 minutes, which is on average a mile every day, and requires no special equipment or clothing and is cost free.

In Derry, St Paul’s PS, St Eithne’s PS, Groarty PS and Gaelscoil na Daróige have all started The Daily Mile.

The Daily Mile was developed in Scotland by the then head teacher Elaine Whyllie who was so concerned about the children’s poor level of fitness she felt something had to be done.

Pupils from St Paul's PS going the extra mile.

Pupils from St Paul's PS going the extra mile.

In her words, ‘If not now, then when? If not us, then who?’

After one month of Elaine introducing The Daily Mile the children’s fitness levels improved dramatically.

Other benefits were also observed including improved attention levels and behaviour.

Lesley Finlay, Western Trust Physical Activity Co-ordinator said: “The Daily Mile is a simple, cost free and effective way to promote physical activity in Primary Schools.

“There is clear evidence of the physical, emotional and social benefits for children as well as benefits for staff and the wider school community.

“We have developed a number of resources including an information pack, classroom poster and certificate for participating schools and are delighted The Daily Mile has been so well received in local schools. With funding from the Public Health Agency we plan to support promotion of The Daily Mile in schools throughout the Western Trust this year.”

Teachers from St Paul’s P.S. have already noticed many positive benefits from The Daily Mile.

Ellen McLaughlin, P3 teacher, said: “I have noticed that after our daily walk the P3 children are more focussed and concentration is better in the classroom.

“The outcomes and impact on the children are fantastic – improving not only the children’s fitness, but also their concentration levels, mood, behaviour and general wellbeing.”

Mrs Logue, P4 teacher, added: “They have been singing as they walk, making up poems, spotting signs of spring and telling stories as we briskly walk a mile around our school grounds. We have loved every second.”

Amanda Murphy P5 teacher, said: “The little burst of fresh air and exercise in the middle of the day awakens the brain cells. The children are getting the chance to chat, mingle and exercise with other pupils around the school.

“This ultimately branches out their friendships and social skills. The Daily Mile is a great way to encourage families to be active also as many pupils are asking their parents to keep it up at the weekend.”

Nick Tomlinson, Principal at Groarty PS, has also observed the positive benefits.

He said, “All the children really enjoy participating, the benefits in terms of exercise and school work have been reported by staff and pupils, a great improvement to our day. Great fun and good for everybody”.

Perhaps most importantly, the children have also thoroughly enjoyed The Daily Mile.

Jack, a student at St Eithne’s PS said: “I feel really good as it’s keeping me fit and healthy”.

James also from St Eithne’s PS said “I like it because it clears my mind”.

Chloe from St Eithne’s agrees with the boys, stating: ‘It’s great fun!’

Although in it’s infancy in the Western Trust area, the benefits of this cost free programme are already visible and it is hoped this small change in the daily routine of our schools will lead to improved health outcomes for local children.

If you would like to learn more about The Daily Mile and avail of some of the free resources available, please contact Lesley Finlay, WHSCT Health Improvement Department on 028 7186 5127 or email: Lesley.Finlay@westerntrust.hscni.net.