Apr 23, 2021
Getting kids up and running
A new program is jump-starting movement and activity for Boston students, after a year many spent indoors, sitting in front of screens.
The Boston Back in Motion initiative, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and other organizations, is being spearheaded by the Boston Foundation along with health and fitness nonprofits BOKS Kids and Playworks and the idea is simple: get kids to spend 30 minutes per day doing some sort of physical activity every day through the month of April.
“Words can’t even describe how important this campaign is,” said Playworks coach Leah Kelly, who is in her second year of service with AmeriCorps and working at the Rafael Hernández school in Roxbury.
The exercises are meant to be fun, not overly intense, and doable in short five- to seven-minute bursts throughout the day with peers and teachers joining in, Kelly said.
Play is such a natural language for children.
“When we give them the opportunity, they are so excited," she said. "You can see the joy light up their faces.”
Backed by research
Researchers have found active play gives kids an intellectual boost too.
“The findings are fairly clear: Exercise activates the same nerve cells we use to think and learn. The attention system is turned on,” said Dr. John Ratey, author of the book “Spark- The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.”
The Boston Back in Motion workouts, all available for free online, include games, hip-hop dances and other exercises students can easily participate in from home.
More than 2,500 students in the city of Boston are taking part in the program, said Boston Foundation Vice President Elizabeth Pauley.
“We have been sedentary for a year or more and for kids, they are sitting in front of a screen all day doing hybrid learning and that’s the way it has to be for health and safety,” Pauley said. “But, as we begin to turn a corner on the pandemic and bring kids back to school, a group of us were really interested in getting kids moving again.”
Pauley noted that being inactive is only one challenge that kids have had to tackle during the health crisis.
“They’ve also been isolated and that’s been stressful,” she said. “A lot of kids and families have been undergoing trauma and exercise is a great way to come back to a place of health and safety.”
Boston Back in Motion engages kids with diverse activities and special guests, including Pat the Patriot and Wally the Green Monster. In a recent video, the lovable Red Sox mascot leads kids through a series of stretches, jumping jacks, push-ups, and other calisthenics and invites students to share their workouts on social media.
The program will offer a new activity every day in April, but its free online video library of exercises will continue to be accessible to kids, parents and teachers through the spring and summer.
Library of exercises
BOKS Bursts – Caterpillar to Butterfly
BOKS Bursts – Hip Hop Dance Moves
Playworks Minute Mover
BFit with Playworks
For more video libraries visit: https://bostonbackinmotion.com/
Embraced by kids
At the Hernández school, Kelly said the students and teachers have taken the idea of Boston Back in Motion and run with it. She has been back in the building since March and, over the past few weeks, she has often seen students take classroom fitness breaks to do the exercises.
“That means a lot to me because it shows the Playworks mission is not just being embraced by me, but is being embraced by the entire school community,” Kelly said.
“Kids are sponges,” Kelly adds. They have seen and absorbed the stress and anxiety felt by so many adults over the course of the pandemic, including their parents, guardians, older siblings, teachers and others. Now, they have a chance to absorb the excitement and fun of exercise.
Being able to participate in a fun game and being able to laugh with their friends and teachers in the classroom is so important, and Boston Back In Motion has given them that opportunity.