Never a Better Time for Family Fitness
Recent random cold snaps notwithstanding, the weather is warming and so should families across the country to the idea of group and community exercise. Statistical revisions in childhood obesity numbers that dial back the optimism of a few months ago compel us to take the good news where we can find it—in some communities, rates are indeed slowing—but also remind us there is much work to be done. There is no better time than now, with the American Running Association’s NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS once again upon us.
Now in its seventh year, NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS draws on the power of communities to change the nationwide culture of sedentarism by broadly establishing the goal of individuals of all ages completing one mile of running or walk-running during its series of local events. With a natural focus on children and adolescents due to the manageable distance, the annual week has evolved to 10 days and routinely sees schools and neighborhood groups building up to their events with regular training goals for kids throughout the entire year. The happy results can include more permanent, lifestyle-focused attitudes toward regular exercise and running in particular.
At www.runamile.org, the mission statement says it best: “NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS is meant to be a festive event that promotes the message that running can be fun and is an important aspect of overall health, fitness and well-being.” The ARA makes hosting an event as simple as possible: “If you are an elementary or middle school, approach the PE Department Chair and ask them to dedicate one day in early May to have PE classes in the school to run a mile. Where to run? If you have a track and know the distance traveled for one lap, then you’ve got your mile site. If you do not have a track, borrow a measuring wheel from the local high school cross country coach and measure a 400 meter oval on the grass fields on school grounds.”
RUN A MILE DAYS will be held this year from May 2 through 12, and while there may not be time to put together an event in your community this year, do try and attend one to see just how remarkable this annual mile run can be, with school children competing all-out or shoring up their skills for upcoming fitness tests; and in the case of neighborhood groups, kids often running alongside their parents in great bursts of energy and enthusiasm that are just as they were intended to be: completely infectious.
This year, May 6 is the 60th anniversary of the first sub-four-minute mile. Roger Bannister showed the world in 1954 that four minutes was no barrier, and his tenacity and commitment to challenge it is a powerful lesson for anyone facing a seemingly out of reach goal.
If you are a sedentary adult, you’ve got another good reason for facing such a goal. A new study suggests that if you are obese, your children may inherit more than a sedentary lifestyle. It turns out paternal obesity is seen as an independent risk factor for childhood autism. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and finds the risk for autism spectrum disorder strongly associated with a paternal Body Mass Index of 30 or higher.
The team looked carefully at a massive cohort of 93,000 children in Norway whose health was tracked in national databases. By the end of follow-up, at a mean age of 7 years, the odds ratio for autism spectrum disorder among children of obese fathers was 1.53, compared with those of normal-weight fathers. Maternal obesity was not significantly associated, though other population-based studies have found a link between maternal metabolic conditions and neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
Still, the new findings are surprising, and suggest an additional and as-yet unidentified genetic mechanism in the development of autism spectrum disorder. The study reminds us that sedentarism at any age can have far-reaching consequences. And so given the all-ages, inclusive nature of a nationwide initiative like MILE DAYS, what better time than the first week of May to bring the family together for the very good of same?
If you are thinking of hosting an event next year, the ARA makes it easy to download tools to legitimize your local efforts. Online at www.runamile.org/host-miler-tools/ you can print event posters, a training guide, the how-to-host guide and completion certificates for your budding athletes. For more information about RUN A MILE DAYS 2014, the ARA and its Walk and Run programs, in addition to www.runamile.org, visit www.americanrunning.org.