Teacher leads effort to promote exercise

BLUE HILL, Neb. (AP) — A physical fitness phenomenon has hit the community here in the form of a walk/run club.

Kaitlyn Wright, physical education instructor at Blue Hill Public Schools, wanted to get the kids in the school more active.

With many PE programs being cut and recesses limited to make room for other educational offerings, children are getting less time for physical activity. Increased computer time, homework and gaming have lessened the amount of after-school activity at home for many children after school.

The Hastings Tribune (http://bit.ly/2f2wd6G ) reported that Wright decided she would start devoting her time before school to an opportunity for increased physical fitness for students through a walk/run club. The club was established at the beginning of this school year.

Children have the opportunity to walk or run around the track when weather permits, and the activity moves indoors when weather requires it. The miles accumulated are logged, and as children met mile markers they earn foot tokens to add to their bracelets or key chains.

Each time around the track gets a punch on the punch card of the child logging time. Twenty punches equals five miles and earns one foot token. In the club’s first six weeks, 126 children logged a total of more than 2,600 miles, according to Wright.

She also invited the staff and community to get involved, hoping that the fitness craze would travel throughout all age groups. Twenty-eight staff members joined the effort along with 52 community members that are faithfully logging time.

Wright referred to studies that have been done showing that everyone needs at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. She explained that in Nebraska the school system is not allowed to have PE every day for children.

“This allows children to get that minimum every day, even if this is not a PE day for them,” Wright said.

She hopes the benefits of morning exercise will extend into the children’s school day, with improved behaviors and better academics.

“Physical activity has been proven to increase brain activity that helps to increase test scores,” Wright said. “We should also see improved behavior since kids will get a chance to get out and work off some of their energy before they go to sit in the classroom for the next few hours.”

Children are getting excited about the walk/run club. Second-grader Ella Bren enjoys the fitness but looks forward to the social part of the morning,

“Walking kind of wakes you up, and you can talk with friends before school,” she said.

Starting fitness with children early can cause a lifestyle change that will follow that child throughout his or her lifetime. Elementary Principal Lori Toepfer said she’s a fan of the club Wright has started.

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“I believe that the run/walk club supports positive lifestyle practices and helps to improve student achievement,” Toepfer said.

One young runner already is showing some dreams for the future, according to comments made to his mother.

Rebecca Johnson, mother of third-grader Rem Johnson, says her son is developing a positive attitude about running and exercise.

“Considering that my son is a video game/Netflix junkie, I am glad to know that he is getting some form of exercise at some point during the day,” Rebecca Johnson said. “Rem really enjoys it and has recently been asking about running with my sister who is a marathoner and going to Boston in April. If he enjoys it now, it may lead to a lifelong adventure that doesn’t involve technology, and that is not a bad thing!”

People in the community have been receptive of the club and the fitness. Roads and walkways have seen more activity as of late.

The Blue Hill Fitness Center also has also been eager to show its support. The Fitness Center has been supplying the foot tokens handed out to the children.

“The fitness center is happy to support the kids and the community in this event,” said Trisha Allen, its president. “We think it is a great idea to partners with the school and the community.”

Toepfer hopes that the club will continue to increase momentum in both the school and community.

“Miss Wright has done a great job organizing and managing the run walk club,” Toepfer said. “It has been great to see the kids excited to get to school in the morning to walk or run around the track in all kinds of weather.”

Building bridges between the community and the school is a welcomed part of the program, Toepfer said.

“I love that this has expended our school community partnership,” she said.

[“source-ndtv”]

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