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BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success) How before-school exercise can get kids ready to learn

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Sometimes it’s tough to get kids up and going in the morning. But research has shown that physical activity gets kids’ brains moving and gets them ready to learn for the day. So how do the leaders of the BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success) program get kids going an hour before school? It may come as no surprise that it is a group effort that involves parents, educators and community members.

BOKS, formerly known as Fit Kidz, is a before school physical activity program developed by moms for elementary schools. Dr. John Ratey of Harvard Medical School and author of Spark, the book that inspired the program, states that “exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains.” Several studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity stimulates brain function and creates the physiological conditions for students to be ready to learn. BOKS reinforces this research by getting kids moving in the morning in order to help boost their academic and physical performance for the day, along with increasing their overall confidence and well-being.

The BOKS program runs two or three mornings a week beginning an hour before school for 11 weeks. BOKS classes start with a fun warm-up game like “Simon Says” and transition into running, relay races or obstacle courses, then focuses on a skill of the week such as push-ups. Classes provide plenty of opportunity for play since it is filled with team-oriented games. To enforce the program’s focus on overall health, classes also include nutritional talks about making smart food choices. BOKS is designed to involve the whole family and community. Interested parents and educators from participating schools are trained to lead the program.

The Reebok Foundation funds the program in select urban schools and has incorporated BOKS as a core initiative of its social purpose platform, Access to Fitness. It has been a great success, growing from one school in Natick, MA in 2009 to 25 schools by the end of the 2010/2011 school year positively impacting more than 1,700 children. By fall 2011, the plan is to launch programs in New York City and Washington D.C., targeting economically challenged areas. The hope is also to get moms around the country to take action to bring BOKS to their own children’s schools and make a positive impact in their communities.

The next time you’re struggling to get moving in the morning, take a lesson from BOKS and get in a little physical activity to get your brain started for the day! To find out more about the BOKS program and how to bring it to your area, visit www.bokskids.org.

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