Montgomery County’s Star Elementary recently became the first school in the United States to build a designated The Daily Mile walking trail. Proceeds from a revamped FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Spring Event will support the construction of two additional trails.
TROY – Dr. Jeff James appreciates a community that appreciates its schools.
As assistant superintendent for learning for the local school system, Dr. James has found that especially true of Montgomery County, an area with a history of business and civic support for education.
“I’ve never been in a community where businesses have been such a great support system,” Dr. James says. “Every business in this community has children in their heart and wants to see them succeed in life.”
An example of that community support has focused on The Daily Mile, an international program that encourages incorporating 15 minutes of daily physical activity into a day’s academic curriculum that is separate to physical education or sports.
The Montgomery/Richmond County Coalition, led by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, received a three-year grant from The Duke Endowment for the Healthy People, Healthy Carolinians initiative. As part of the project, Montgomery County’s Star Elementary recently became the first school in the United States to build a designated The Daily Mile walking trail. Proceeds from a revamped Spring Event, the annual fundraiser of the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation, will support the construction of two additional trails.
The event is scheduled for Friday, May 5, at Densons Creek Golf Course. (Please see the accompanying story for additional details.)
Montgomery Memorial Hospital President Beth Walker participated in The Daily Mile discussions with the principal and two teachers at Troy Elementary School and became even more enthusiastic about the program as she observed their excitement about working it into their curriculum.
“It was so refreshing to see the principal and those two teachers sit down, look at the curriculum and talk about where they could put their 15 minutes of walking,” she says. “They talked about the best place to insert a walk and even mapped out an inside track so they could get their mile in during bad weather. I thought it was so neat to see the teachers get excited about it.”
Created in 2012 and first implemented in Scotland, The Daily Mile is an evidence-based intervention that has since spread throughout the rest of the UK and into The Netherlands and Belgium. The initiative helps improve the physical, emotional, and social health and well-being of children, regardless of age, ability or personal circumstance.
The idea behind The Daily Mile is very simple: Every day in school, elementary-aged children are taken outside to walk, jog or run at their own pace with their teachers and classmates. Within four weeks, the children’s fitness improves so dramatically that, on average, 75 percent manage the equivalent of at least a mile’s distance during their daily 15 minutes.
The program’s capacity to help children learn by improving their focus and concentration in the classroom was confirmed by an English study that showed kids who walk/run a daily mile perform up to 25 percent higher than expected in reading, writing and math. They are also fitter, more confident and better behaved.
According to The Daily Mile plan in Montgomery County, a community with a high incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, each of the county’s six elementary schools would eventually acquire a walking trail.
There are funds in the Healthy People, Healthy Carolinians grant to build three trails. Mt. Gilead Elementary already had a trail so that left two unfunded trails as beneficiaries of Spring Event proceeds.
As a member of the hosting FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Board, Dr. James chairs a committee organizing a golf tournament that will be part of the reorganized fundraiser. Himself a golfer, he understands the effect that physical activity can have on every aspect of a person’s lifestyle and he has observed that effect on children and their potential for learning.
The Daily Mile and similar programs benefit children and families while themselves benefiting from the support of businesses and events like the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Spring Event, he points out.
“A lot of research has been done over time that shows a very tight correlation between the health of students and their ability to learn,” Dr. James says. “All these things build a community of learning. People see education as a single event, but it really does ‘take a village.’ In a county like Montgomery, where we lack some of the advantages of other counties, it’s a win-win for our kids and families when we see this kind of support.”
To learn more about The Daily Mile initiative, visit www.thedailymile.org. For more information about the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation, visit www.firsthealth.org.