Kids Walk and Run to Fitness

ChildObesity180 starts Billion Mile Race to encourage children to get moving
young children running on an open field
“The causes of obesity are complex and interconnected,” says Christina Economos, N96, vice chair and director of ChildObesity180. “Increasing activity levels is one step we can take to help solve this problem.” Photo: Courtesy of ChildObesity180
March 20, 2015

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ChildObesity180, an organization at Tufts University’s Friedman School that is working to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, is teaming up with the New Balance Foundation and the 100 Mile Club to get school kids nationwide walking and running for better health.

The foundation has pledged $2.55 million toward a new ChildObesity180 effort: the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race, which, starting in September, will challenge millions of elementary school children to walk or run throughout the school year and log their miles toward a collective goal of 1 billion.

“The causes of obesity are complex and interconnected; increasing activity levels is one step we can take to help solve this problem,” says Christina Economos, N96, vice chair and director of ChildObesity180 and holder of the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School. “We have high hopes for this initiative.”

The campaign is inspired by a popular running program—the 100 Mile Club—started in 1992 by a teacher in California. The program encourages students to walk or run 100 miles each school year, or about three miles each week. Students get recognition for reaching small goals along the way.

When ChildObesity180 held a nationwide competition in 2011-12 to find innovative physical activity programs already happening in schools, the 100 Mile Club stood out from the more than 500 entries for the amount of quality physical activity it delivered, its appeal to students and teachers, its cost-effectiveness and its potential for easy replication in schools nationwide. Since then, seed grants from ChildObesity180 have helped bring the 100 Mile Club to 700 new schools. The New Balance Foundation grant will allow it to reach thousands more.

Schools can join the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race through their existing running clubs, or get help starting their own chapters of the 100 Mile Club. While the race will encourage healthy competition among schools, districts, cities and states, the overwhelming spirit of the campaign will be progress toward collectively logging 1 billion miles in a year. 

“One billion is attainable—consider 25,000 schools with an average enrollment of 400 students each achieving 100 miles,” says Nate Whitman, director of ChildObesity180’s Active Schools Acceleration Project. “The steady small efforts of individual students across schools can have a massive cumulative result.”

The race will begin enrolling schools this spring, with a nationwide launch expected in September for the new school year. Schools can preregister at www.billionmilerace.org.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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