Exercise industry backs National's 'Daily Mile' programme

A proposal by National to force all school children to exercise for 15 minutes a day is being embraced by the country's exercise industry. 

The party on Sunday proposed rolling out the 'Daily Mile' programme in schools nationwide, in an effort to combat the country's rising child-obesity rates. 

The idea is based on a UK programme where kids are encouraged to walk or run for 15 minutes everyday. So far more than 9500 schools have registered for the programme in over 60 countries around the world.

Richard Beddie, chief executive of the Exercise Association of New Zealand (ExerciseNZ), an organisation that represents around 80 percent of the industry, says the programme would help push kids into leading a more active lifestyle.

"What schools and the Ministry of Education need to be doing is focusing on physical literacy and making sure that people are physically active," says Beddie.

According to a recent UNICEF report, 39 percent of children in New Zealand are either overweight or obese.

"The data is overwhelming," Michael Woodhouse, National's spokesperson for health, told The AM Show on Monday.

He says the programme would be "a start" to fighting the country's obesity rates.

"We need to be encouraging much more exercise at school," Woodhouse said.

"The overwhelming majority of New Zealand school children are not doing the one hour of exercise a day that's prescribed and we also know that a third of them are now obese according to the measurements that we use."

According to ExerciseNZ, only seven percent of five to 17-year-old are currently getting the recommended 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

"We do have a really big problem and that's manifesting itself in things like our pediatric diabetes rates and so on - so we really need to get our kids active," says Woodhouse.

Beddie says something needs to be done urgently.

"My normal reaction to government regulation is that government regulation should be the last course of action. But in this case, what we've got is actually some of the worst inactivity levels for children in the world."

So far, 14 schools are taking part in the programme in New Zealand.

National wants to implement it in all schools here by 2025.