Walk! Run! Dance! How Schools Help Kids Exercise Every Day

January 23, 2013

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Photo by Flickr user

Recently we were thrilled to see physical activity spotlighted at schools around the country. 

At Eugene Field Elementary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, running and walking is suddenly in style. Kids get a bracelet that they can fill with colored shoe charms, earned for meeting their goals. The program  encourages students to collect more charms and get in shape:

“It’s a good way to lose weight, and I like to do it with my best friends,” [Simon Nelsen, a fourth-grader] said.

Last year, he played kickball, soccer or four square during his 15-minute breaks. But this year, “usually, I just run the whole recess.”

Parents and teachers get into the action at Saddlebrook elementary school in northwest Omaha, where students participate in “hike-and-bike Wednesdays,” filling in the gaps left by decreased time for physical education during the school day. 

Teachers meet students at corners in the Saddlebrook neighborhood and walk a few blocks to school. During colder weather, the school takes advantage of the attached community center walking track and allows students to walk inside before school.

“It’s great to get that exercise first thing in the morning,” Saddlebrook Principal Mark Suing said.

But walking isn't for everyone. At Springdale Elementary School in West Columbia, South Carolina, walking routines bored the kids, according to fourth grade teacher Susan Jenkinson. Instead, she said, “this year’s class just loves to dance.”  

Jenkinson's approach won accolades this month from the BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina’s WalkingWorks Great Expectations for Health program. Her class was one of two in the state to be honored for increasing physical activity. (Although the BlueChoice program has “walking” in its name, classes could exercise in any format for 300 minutes over the course of 12 weeks.)

 With popular songs like “Gangnam Style” playing throughout the classroom, Jenkinson's students “get the wiggles out” during transition times at several points throughout the day.

At HSC, we encourage teachers and schools to be creative and look for opportunities to integrate physical activity into the school day. Have a great idea that works in your school or classroom? Tell us in the comments below!