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10 October 2019

The Daily Mile: a practical look at a physical health intervention

Researchers have studied how the Daily Mile, a popular health intervention, gets adapted in a real-world context, pointing to the need for research that evaluates public health impact in complex contexts


Launched in 2012, the Daily Mile was designed to improve the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of children by increasing their daily physical activity.

The Daily Mile requires teachers to take students out to run or jog at their own pace for 15 minutes per day, approximately one mile. There is some evidence that taking part in the scheme increases daily physical activity, reduces sedentarism and skinfold measures when implemented in ideal conditions. However, little is known about how the scheme is implemented and adapted in ‘real-world’ or non-trial settings.

Researchers from the Department of Population Health collaborated with the Lewisham Public Health Department to study how The Daily Mile was implemented in schools in the borough in South London. During 2018, the authors collected data in the borough using a mixed-methods approach, which included observations of The Daily Mile in schools, as well as interviews and focus groups with health professionals, teachers and children.  

They found that by September 2018, 48% of schools in the borough had adopted The Daily Mile and that the scheme is adapted to suit each school in a local context. For example, schools in inner London are restricted by space, which means doing The Daily Mile often must be coordinated around other activities and other classes or adapted to meet the space restrictions.

The authors found that many factors contribute to time dedicated to taking part: for example, less time might be allowed to account for getting back to a classroom, or, alternatively, more time is spent venturing to a local park to run. The team also saw variations in the activities performed by children – some were walking, running, sprinting, skipping and/or stopping – this could happen at various times during each daily mile, with differences between males and females. Some classes implemented competitions to encourage running or developed games that they would play to encourage movement.

This research identifies a variety of implementation practices in everyday non-trial settings. A crucial question this research asks is how researchers evaluate the success of interventions like this, where adaptation occurs in diverse contexts. The authors argue a future challenge for public health is the evaluation of the impact of interventions like The Daily Mile, that take place in complex contexts.  

Lead author, Dr Benjamin Hanckel, Research Fellow, Department of Population Health said “This case study points to the need for appropriate methods that can account for variation in the implementation of health interventions like The Daily Mile”

Professor Judith Green, Professor of Sociology of Health, Department of Population Health said: “Our study showed that what happens in real life is often very different from what happens in studies”. 

Read the paper published in BMC Public Health here.


In this story

Judith Green

Visiting Professor