“What it means is that you have the power to change your brain. All you have to do is lace up your running shoes.”
― John J. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
Every Lap Counts. This is the name of the program a colleague and I spearheaded two years ago to give our students an opportunity to walk, jog, and/or run on our track before school. Inspired by the book Spark, by John Ratey, which describes how the brain is nourished by exercise, we wanted to provide an outlet for our students to exercise before school.
Prior to Every Lap Counts, the only options for students who arrived early to school were to go the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Based on the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to provide a program where elevating heart rates could assist the brain in reaching its peak performance.
Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:
- Research indicates that exercise makes us mentally sharper, and also shows that students score higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
- Studies have found that kids who exercise are more confident.
- Many studies have found that kids who exercise feel happier, are better at managing their moods, and have fewer mood swings.
Every Lap Counts
The program is simple. Any student in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classroom and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. We encourage parents of all students to participate, encouraging lifelong, family fitness. From 7:30-7:50 students can walk, jog and/or run on the track. On some days students have the option to do baton relays and sprints.
***As an added challenge, I recently implemented the optional 1-mile challenge. Students can come out and run a mile each morning. I promised that each week I’d post every student’s name that completed at least one mile in the hallway outside our gymnasium. Honestly, I only expected a handful of takers for the challenge. On Monday, out of the 46 students on the track, 14 of them ran the mile. I was blown away. Amazingly, the number of milers more than doubled on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. By the end of the week 68 different runners ran 133 total miles. More impressive to me was the breakdown.
- 1st Grade – 20 students
- 2nd Grade – 10 students
- 3rd Grade – 18 students
- 4th Grade – 13 students
- 5th Grade – 8 students
Students of all ages were motivated to take the 1-mile challenge. Some were inclined to run 2 miles. At the same time students who came out to the track who didn’t take the challenge were still celebrated for starting their day with exercise.
Students receive a toe token for every 5 miles they run. I’ll also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participates in the program.
Every Lap Counts is about movement, a simple opportunity for students to stimulate their bodies and brains through exercise, and a chance to socialize with friends prior to the rigor of the normal school routine.
Every Lap Counts has become a favorite part of my day. I am in awe and overcome with pride each morning as an average of 60 students join me on the track for this supplement to recess and physical education.
Perhaps some of you already have successful morning movement programs, and can relate to the pride I exude for students at my school. If so, please let me know! Maybe together, we can inspire other schools to do the same.
***Update: It has now been 6 months since I implemented the 1-mile challenge. Our students have logged almost 1,500 miles. Some runners have posted over 50 miles on their own. Each Friday, I post the student and class mileage totals outside our gymnasium. Often, there will be a crowd gathered with students proudly searching for their names.
Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.
Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion