Mental health outcomes of the Daily Mile in elementary school children: a single-arm pilot study

Anke Arkesteyn, Davy Vancampfort, Joseph Firth, Tine Van Damme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: School-based physical activity (PA) programmes such as The Daily Mile (TDM) are widely promoted to address shortfalls in meeting PA recommendations. This study is the first to examine TDM (a daily one mile outdoor run/walk performed at a self-selected pace during school hours) on mental health, self-esteem and self-perceived competence of elementary schoolchildren.

METHODS: In total, 550 children (n = 289 boys, aged 5-13 years) were recruited from seven schools across Flanders. The Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were completed before, during and post-intervention. One-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to examine changes over time. Additional subgroup analyses of children with low scores on the SPPC (-1SD) were performed.

RESULTS: Only perceived global self-worth (SPPC) was significantly higher (p = .041) following TDM. However, in children with low baseline SPPC scores, significant increases with large effect sizes were found for global self-worth (p = <.001), scholastic competence (p = .001), social competence (p = .003), athletic competence (p = .002), physical appearance (p = <.001) and behavioural conduct (p = .003) following TDM. Moreover, significant reductions over time were reported by parents for total difficulties (p < .001), hyperactivity (p = .004), peer problems (p = .008) and emotional symptoms (p = <.001) and an increase in prosocial behaviour (p = .038) on the SDQ following TDM. However, no changes for conduct problems were observed (p = .143).

CONCLUSIONS: The study is the first to indicate that TDM potentially improves mental health, self-esteem and self-perceived competence in elementary schoolchildren, especially in those with a poor mental health status. Randomised controlled trials are now required to more definitively test these findings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2022


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