Monday, February 19, 2018

Before School Exercise to Build Bodies and Minds

We all know that exercise is good for kids. But we often think about opportunities for exercise as something that happens after school or on weekends. A growing national (and now international) program, now in about 3,000 schools, BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success), changes that paradigm with a before-school program of exercise, activity, and skill-building that has been shown to improve both the physical and mental health of the children who participate.

Training from BOKS, an affiliate of the non-profit Reebok Foundation, is free and the start-up costs for schools (things like balls, jump ropes, and cones) are minimal. Trainings take place at several locations around the country or ,virtually, anywhere they are desired.

According the BOKS website, a typical one hour before-school session starts with check-in and free play. There is then a brief review of the lesson plan for the day and the "skill of the week". Next will generally come a running activity, which is a key part of every session, followed by practice of specific skills (things like push-ups or squats) through game playing. Classes end with a game designed to promote teamwork, and then the students stretch and cool down and discuss nutrition tips with the trainer.

While this all sounds like fun, the most impressive part of the program is the impact it has on the physical and emotional well-being of the children who participate. As noted in a recent piece in The New York Times, researchers looked at 707 students in 24 Massachusetts schools, ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. They all participated in a BOKS program for 12 weeks - some students twice a week and some three times weekly. The study found  that both the two and three times per week participants showed improvement in student engagement, positive affect, and vitality/energy measures. Changes in body mass index (BMI) were apparent in those students participating three times weekly, but not those who participated only twice each week.

If you are interested in implementing the BOKS program in your child's school, you can find the information to do so on the BOKS website.

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