By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) — Efforts to turn back the obesity epidemic in the United States have started focusing on schools where children often sit for six hours a day.

A local doctor started a national walking and running program that gets children to exercise at school and it’s a huge hit with kids at Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston.

Students at Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston take part in the Billion Mile Race program. (WBZ-TV)

Students at Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston take part in the Billion Mile Race program. (WBZ-TV)

“It’s just been a pleasure to see the kids so early in the morning walking with me and with each other and with the teachers,” says Tom Levett, physical education teacher at Josiah Quincy.

Physical education teacher Tom Levett speaks to students at the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

Physical education teacher Tom Levett speaks to students at the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

Fifth grader, Nicholas Lai, says he enjoys the program.

“It’s fun because we get to talk with our friends in the morning every day,” he says.

Every school day begins with a 15-minute walk.

Henry Allushi, a fifth-grade student, said, “It’s been fun because at the beginning of the day, you get to talk to your friends to let out energy and stuff.”

Every small step gets the kids closer to their goal of 100,000 miles.

Levett, a first-year teacher, joined the Billion Mile Race, led by New Balance and Tufts University, to get children moving at U.S. schools until they collectively reach a billion miles.

He says kids and teachers alike have hit their stride.

“It brings out that positive energy and to get that healthy habit starting right away in the morning,” Levett said.

Dr. Christina Economos, co-founder and director of Childhood Obesity 180 at Tufts University, says she’d like to see all Massachusetts schools participate in the program.

Economos says she has seen some improvement in childhood obesity rates for children between 2-and-6 years old. The Billion Mile Race is a competition designed to target elementary age kids.

4,500 schools have enrolled and they’ve already logged 25 million miles.

The program is free, and schools can get involved by signing up on the Billion Mile Race website.

If you have an Eye on Education story idea, email us at eyeoneducation@cbs.com or tweet me @paulaebbenwbz.

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