Good Morning, Body and Brain!

October 15th, 2014 | By Gary No Comments

It is a well-known fact that exercise in the morning is not only good for your overall health but it also helps you think and function better throughout the day. For hundreds and maybe even thousands of years, people in Asian countries like China and Japan have participated in group exercise programs every morning. Recently, area schools have been developing early morning exercise programs for students before school starts. Barrow Elementary in Clarke County and Yargo Elementary in Barrow County offer good examples of what schools can do to prepare their students for the day.

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Early Bird Gym at Barrow Elementary

Principal Ellen Sabatini explains how their program started and how it works. “We started this as part of our wellness initiatives. Our active Wellness Council, which includes staff and parents, developed some action steps to encourage students, staff, and families to lead healthy lives! We also have read research that shows that intense exercise before instruction leads to learning gains, so we hope to give our students the opportunity to begin the day with exercise. When students arrive at school, they can go directly to the gym for early bird gym. They can walk or jog laps or do stretches and exercises for about 20 minutes. At the end of that time, our PE teacher gathers the group together to stretch, breathe, get ready for the day, and share a health tip. We plan to incorporate some new components, such as students tracking their minutes or laps and setting wellness goals.”

Counselor Lauren McElhannon adds, “Young children are so active and have so much energy that we are always looking for ways to help them move, get energized and find ways to build on our minutes of movement each day.  I see lots of enthusiasm from students, parents, and teachers … excitement for starting the day active, having fun with other students, coming to the classroom after having gotten a little energy out. Parents have even asked if they could join their children!”

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Yargo Elementary Running Club

PE teacher Pam Rogan is a big believer in the value of morning exercise and is really proud of the running club that they started several years ago. “With the help of our fifth grade teachers and the support of my administration, I am able to open the gym each morning before the instructional day starts for our fifth grade students. The program is designed to give these students the opportunity to run and/or participate in games which promote cardiovascular fitness. In turn, this gets their ‘brains’ awake and ready to learn!” Students report directly to the gym when they arrive and get their bodies and brains warmed up from 8 – 8:25 before they head to class at 8:30. Mondays and Wednesdays are ‘girl’ days, and Tuesday and Thursdays are ‘boy’ days. Mondays and Tuesdays are running days; Wednesday and Thursdays are game days. The students earn tokens (colorful plastic feet that can be worn on a necklace/chain) for every two miles they run and/or every five game days they attend.

Fifth grade teacher Elizabeth Sikes sees a lot of value beyond just exercise. “Through the 5th Grade Running Club, we have seen students with low self-esteem begin to shine. Their confidence is built with each lap walked/run. The students are seeing that physical exercise and activity is fun and can be beneficial for even academic achievement. The fifth grade team agreed years ago that something had to be done to fight obesity among our students and, with Pam Rogan fully on board, we have seen a program blossom and inspire other schools and school districts to put more emphasis on physical activity.”

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