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The Big Picture: Outrunning child obesity trends

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4362 (Published 17 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4362
  1. Rebecca Coombes
  1. The BMJ
Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the Olympic champion Mo Farah took to the track with schoolchildren in east London this week to promote an anti-obesity programme that is gaining in popularity across Europe. Children from Cubitt Town Junior School are pictured taking part in the Daily Mile, a 15 minute session to get pupils walking or running a mile.

The brainchild of a head teacher in Scotland, the idea has spread to more than 3460 schools in the UK and a further 1350 schools in Europe since 2012. There is some evidence behind the scheme. Earlier this year a team from Edinburgh and Stirling universities published a study that found positive changes in fitness, body composition, and activity in children who did the Daily Mile when compared with those who didn’t. A cluster randomised study of 40 schools in Birmingham completed earlier this year looked at body mass index a year after the Daily Mile was introduced. The study, which has yet to report, is also investigating cost effectiveness.

The push to get more London schools to adapt the daily activity came as doctors warned that, given current trends, around 23% of 11 year old boys in England are projected to be obese in 2030, the number having increased by 13% since 2016. Nearly a third of the most deprived boys would be obese in 10 years’ time, the analysis from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found.1

International comparison indicates that the UK currently has a higher prevalence of obesity than other northwestern European countries, though the trend seems to be flattening and the UK may see smaller increases than these countries over the next decade.

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