Kickstart Your Kid's Brain

If your morning routine is anything like my family's, it's all you can manage to get everyone dressed, fed, and ready on time (we won't even mention the endless fights over bathroom time). So the idea of fitting in exercise before school seems a bit farfetched.

But it's actually a lot easier than it sounds—at least for your kids—thanks to BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success). This before-school fitness program, started five years ago by Massachusetts mom Kathleen Tullie, is now offered at 1,075 elementary and middle schools. And yours could be next.

The beauty of the program (and a primary appeal to administrators) is that BOKS is free. It's run by parents, teachers, phys. ed. instructors—anyone who believes in the cause of helping kids get more activity. The nonprofit provides training tips and suggested weekly curriculums, which include a warm up, running-related activities (including relay races and obstacle courses), a skill of the week (whether it's sit-ups, jump rope, or jumping jacks), games, and a cool down/nutrition talk. It's designed to last 45 minutes and to be held two to three mornings a week, though it can be tailored to meet an individual school's time and space limitations.

One hardly needs to make a case for why kids need more exercise. There's a reason why September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 18 percent of children are obese, and that may be undercounting by 25 percent. The number has grown by a startling 500 percent since 1974. While eating habits are a large part of the problem, so is an overall lack of activity. Kids aren't getting close to the recommended hour per day of exercise, and they're getting less exercise at school than ever. Third graders average just 69 minutes per week of gym class. And recess has largely become a thing of the past, robbing kids of yet another opportunity to get moving.

But the issue isn't just about their waistlines. It's also about their brains. Regular physical activity is associated with higher academic achievement. Kids who are physically fit outperform those who aren't on reading and math tests. And exercising right before school seems to activate their brain and enhance their ability to focus, a clear win-win.

If this sounds like something your school (and your kids) could use, get moving—and fast. Through October 15, Reebok and the Reebok Foundation are awarding $1,000 grants to up to 300 schools to help implement the program. The funds can be used toward T-shirts, equipment, trainer stipends, and more. Find out more here, and then have your school's administrator or PTA head enroll here. It might mean a little more rushing than usual in the morning, but your kids' bodies and brains will thank you.

Photo courtesy of BOKS

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